November 27, 2007

Is Learning Mandarin Worth the Effort?

Perhaps not, opines The Economist.

In a few decades China may indeed overtake America as the world's top economic power. Will Britons who make the effort to learn its language be rewarded with better careers? Barring some kind of sea change in global language learning, the answer will almost always be no.
One reason, the article states, is because English is taught all over China beginning in grade school. In fact it's becoming compulsory even later in life:
Outside the classroom, too, there is widespread conviction that a child's prospects will be limited if he does not learn English. Senior managers with no capacity in the language are becoming a rarity. China's elite professionals are often bilingual because most of them went to university in America, Britain or Australia.
Of course, this article is purely from a business/resource perspective. If you just happen to like learning languages, you can ignore this article :-) It certainly won't stop me from trying to learn a few key phrases. Of course I'll be living there, which is a little different from taking Mandarin classes in Austin in the hopes that one day I'll be able to put those business skills to use. Anything I learn in the next six months will be applicable immediately. Plus, you know -- it's just fun :-)

In the interest of fairness, some guy has a rebuttal here.

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