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22 April, 2006

Conversational Mandarin?

From Wired, "Mandarin Chinese is already the most popular first language on the planet, beating out English by 500 million speakers. And it's the second-most-common language on the Internet. Now, just as China requires students to learn English, Beijing wants to make Chinese the must-take language for English speakers - and everyone else. Ma figures there are currently 30 million people around the world learning Chinese as a second language. Hanban aims to increase that to 100 million over the next four years."

Link:
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.04/mandarin_pr.html

Back in the mid-1980's (jesh am I old or what?), I took conversational Japanese courses having become convinced that Japan's economic engine was going to make it a dominate player. Now in 2006, Japan's economic engine is chugging along quite nicely but they are by no means the calibur player that we - or at least I - thought they were going to be. The good news? With my pocket "cheat sheet" I can conjour up just enough conversational Japanese to amuse native speakers of the language while maneuvering through small daily transactions.

Is China's emerging economy potential different than Japans? Well, it certainly has the potential to be larger. However, with a significant language barrier - Mandarin is incredibly difficult to learn ( a friend exposed me to Mandarin for a while) wouldn't we be better served by leaning economically toward India in the near term?

Hmm...Hindi or Mandarin?
I like Chinese food much more than Indian food so practical applications abound! Therefore, maybe Mandarin classes are inorder. In twenty years time I'll be able to amuse a larger group of speakers in a language that I barely know - while maneuvering my way through small daily transactions.

Maybe a countries economic success on the world stage is directly proportional to the popularity of its cuisine? If Sushi was more popular in North America and tossed into SUV's from drive-through-windows, Japan would have become the powerhouse I thought they were going to be become?

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