LAHORE: Although the government of Sindh province has decided to make the Standard Chinese language a compulsory subject from class six onwards in all schools with effect from 2013, the decision still seems to be a belated one if one takes into account the fact that the world’s largest exporter and second top most importers of goods formally overtook Japan in February 2011 to become the world’s second-largest economy with a nominal GDP of $5.88 trillion.
A BBC report of August 9, 2011 had summed up the ‘global Pied Piper’ China’s unmatched economic prowess more than adequately: “After stagnating for more decades under the rigid rule of Communist leader Mao Tse-Tung, China now has the world’s fastest-growing economy and is undergoing what has been described as a second industrial revolution. Nowadays China is one of the world’s top exporters and is attracting record amounts of foreign investment. In turn, it is investing billions of dollars abroad. The collapse in international export markets that accompanied the global financial crisis of 2009 initially hit China hard, but its economy was among the first in the world to rebound, quickly returning to growth.” A research carried out by The News International shows that there are nearly 510 million Chinese-speaking people using the internet currently—-the second most after those who talk in English.
Mandarin is the most widely spoken language on earth as over 1.372 billion humans residing on the planet express themselves in this lingo.
According to the May 31, 2011 report of the Internet World Stats, an international website that features latest world internet usage, population statistics, travel figures and web-based market research data for over 233 countries, the 509.965 million plus Chinese-speaking people using the internet represent 24.2 per cent of all the users of this facility across the world.
The latest Internet World Stats report further states that of the estimated 1, 372 billion population of the world that speaks the Standard Chinese or the Mandarin language today, around 37.2 per cent use the internet, revealing further that the number of Chinese-speaking internet users has surged 1,478.7 per cent during the last 11 years between 2000 and 2011.
According to the Internet World Stats, the top 10 languages in the internet with an estimated number of users in brackets are: English (565.004 million), Chinese (509.965 million), Spanish (164.969 million), Japanese (99.182 million), Portuguese (82.586 million), German (75.423 million), Arabic (65.365 million), French (59.8 million), Russian (59.7 million) and Korean (39.44 million). While these top 10 languages have nearly 1.616 billion internet users, the number of those conversing in all other languages and scrolling on the web rests at just 350.557 million -bringing the total internet customers to over 2.1 billion.
Behind those communicating and browsing in Arabic (2,501.2 per cent) and Russian (1,825.8 per cent), the number of Chinese-speaking internet users has increased by 1,478.7 per cent during between 2000 and 2011. Being the largest manufacturer in 2011, having comfortably surpassed the United States, China today has a GDP growth rate of 10.46 per cent (Source: IMF), making the world follow whatever it does and whatever language its inhabitants speak. The importance, which the world thus attaches to the Chinese language, can also be gauged from the July 31, 2009 report of the University Of Southern California US-China Institute.
This report states: “On an average day in the United States, over 51,582 students in American colleges and universities study Chinese. The figure comes from a 2006 survey by the Modern Language Association (MLA) of 2,795 institutions, about two-thirds of all institutions of higher learning in the United States. Chinese is the seventh most popular language other than English. More popular are Spanish (822,985), French (206,426), German (94,264), American Sign Language (78,829), Italian (78,368), and Japanese (66,605). Chinese enrollments, however, are rising.”
The University Of Southern California website maintains, “In 2002, the MLA found 34,153 students studying the language at the colleges and universities it surveyed. Chinese enrollments rose 51 per cent from 2002 to 2006. Only Arabic enrollments had risen faster during the period, some 126 per cent, to 23,974. Most attribute the great rise in Chinese enrollments to China’s rising economic strength and overall prominence. In earlier decades, Japanese enrollments rose along with interest in Japan’s economic growth and its culture.”
The prestigious American university at Los Angeles had viewed, “In 1960, Chinese enrollments were slightly higher than Japanese ones from 1960 to 1980. With Japan’s 1980s economic bubble, however, enrollment in Japanese raced ahead. In 1986, 23,454 were studying Japanese compared to 16,891 in Chinese language courses. In addition to pursuing Chinese language study in US institutions, many Americans are heading to China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan to study. In 2006, 11,064 students went to China, an increase of 25 per cent over 2005. Some 1,059 went to Hong Kong—an increase of 16 per cent—and 467 went to Taiwan, an increase of 27 per cent. A majority of these students engage in language study.”
The report concludes, “The increase in American college students heading to China has been steady, except for two years in the early part of this decade. First, the 9/11 attack in 2001 dampened all overseas enrollment and then the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan caused many schools to close programmes and bring students home.” In the United Kingdom, from 2000 to 2004, the number of students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland taking Advanced Level exams in Chinese had increased by 57 per cent.
In 2006, the Brighton College in East Sussex had become the first British institution to make the Chinese language compulsory, alongside French, Spanish and Latin.
A BBC report of January 17, 2006 had stated, “An independent school has become the first in the UK to make Mandarin Chinese compulsory for pupils, reflecting the growing importance of China on the world stage. But it’s not an easy language to master. China used to be called a sleeping giant. Now, as the world’s fastest growing major economy, it is well and truly awake. British exports to the country are expected to quadruple by the end of the decade and the government wants every school, college and university to be twinned with an equivalent in China within the next five years.”
The report added, “An estimated 100 schools in the UK are now teaching Mandarin, China’s official language, according to the British Council - the UK’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Brighton College, an independent school in East Sussex, this week became the first to make the language compulsory, alongside French, Spanish and Latin.”
The BBC added, “The General Certificate for Secondary Education (GCSE) entries for the Chinese languages of Mandarin and Cantonese crept up to just under 4,000 last year. Even with its falling popularity, however, the number of entries in French still hit 320,000. Business experts are in no doubt about how important Mandarin will become over the next few years. BBC business reporter Mary Hennock says students speaking fluent English and Chinese are going to be the executives of the future.”
Among the most notable non-native speakers of the Chinese language, the 31st US President Herbert Clark Hoover (1874 -1964) and the former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd (currently Foreign Minister), are the most well known of all.
The former US President, Herbert Hoover, and his wife had learned the Mandarin Chinese while the statesman was working in China for Messrs Bewick, Moreing & Company as its leading engineer towards the end of the 19th century. (Reference: (Page 35 of David King’s book “Herbert Hoover”) Hoover, who had served his country’s President between 1929 and 1933, was originally a professional mining engineer and author. According to David King’s above-cited book, the former US president and his wife used to converse in Mandarin during their tenure at the White House to foil eavesdroppers.
As far as the former Aussie Premier Kevin Michael Rudd (served between 2007 and 2010) is concerned, the 54-year old politician had studied an arts degree in Asian studies at the Australian National University, majoring in Chinese language and Chinese history. In 1995, Rudd was hired as a Senior China Consultant by the globally acclaimed accounting firm KPMG Australia. (Reference: ABC Television report of April 9, 2008 and an article appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald on December 1, 2007)
A quick word about the Mandarin or the Standard Chinese language; it is the major among a dozen key Chinese languages currently in vogue with over 70 per cent of the Chinese people speaking it.
By the way, Mandarin also happens to be one of the six official languages at the United Nations. It is based on the particular Mandarin dialect spoken in Beijing, hence making it the official language of the People’s Republic of China. According to Ethnologue, an encyclopedic reference cataloging all of the world’s 6,909 known living languages at present, Mandarin is also spoken in Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia (Java and Bali), Mongolia, Philippines, Cambodia, Canada, Indonesia (Java and Bali), Laos, Libya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States and Zambia etc.