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New Post 13/08/2009 15:32
  shuai
1199 posts
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Learn Mandarin,Over a Billion Served 

Learn Mandarin,Over a Billion Served

 

(Learn Chinese via Skype.Add my skype: mandarinschool )

Learning to Compete: A Mandarin lesson for kindergartners in Portland, Ore.

This past academic year, 146 New York City kids 4 to 14 dutifully attended Rosalyn Chao's Mandarin class at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral Academy. Many of the students were first-generation Americans; for several, Mandarin would be their third language, after English and Spanish.

Get used to this picture; around the world, more adults and kids are learning Chinese. Beijing is pouring money into new Confucius Institutes (Chinese language and culture centers), and two U.S. senators recently proposed spending $1.3 billion on Chinese-language programs over the next five years. From Ulan Bator to Chicago, it sometimes seems as if everyone is trying to learn the language now spoken by a fifth of the world's population.

Their reasoning is easy to understand. China is booming, and citizens around the globe want a piece of the action. Speaking Mandarin can facilitate communication with newly wealthy Chinese tourists or smooth bilateral trade relations. In a form of intense cultural diplomacy, Beijing is also promoting its films, music, art and language as never before. Front and center are the Confucius Institutes, modeled on the British Council, Germany's Goethe Institutes or the Alliance Française. China's Ministry of Education plans to have some 150 branches up and running in 100 countries by 2010. It is also sending thousands of language instructors to foreign programs and inviting foreign students from Asia, Africa and elsewhere to study in its universities.

As a result, Beijing predicts that 100 million individuals will be studying Mandarin as a second language by the end of the decade. The U.S. Department of Education announced earlier this year that it hopes to have 5 percent of all elementary, secondary and college students enrolled in Mandarin studies by 2010.

The Chinese boom hasn't escaped criticism, however. For one thing, the language is hard, with more than 2,500 characters generally employed in daily writing and a complex tonal speaking system. Some U.S. experts argue that limited resources would be better spent on science and math training. Then there's the danger that other important languages, such as Russian or Japanese, will be neglected; for example, there are now 10 times more students learning Mandarin than Japanese in the United States. And other countries fear a growing encroachment of Chinese power; some Africans have complained about Beijing's "neocolonialist" attitudes, for example, and this could breed resentment against Confucius Institutes on their soil.

Yet most Mandarin students, like those at St. Pat's, aren't letting such concerns dissuade them. For these kids and their teachers, Mandarin represents a new way of thinking. Chao says that "we must begin preparing our students for the interconnected world." Accordingly, she has encouraged her Mandarin students to correspond with pen pals in Shanghai. Chao says that "in reading the Chinese students' letters, we learned quickly that American students are far behind their Asian counterparts." If they hope to catch up to their Chinese competitors, her stude—ts-like the growing legions of Mandarin pupils around the gl—be-are going to have to study hard indeed.

 

 


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