To learn Chinese, also known as Standard Mandarin, Putonghua and Mandarin is to go on a pretty interesting adventure. The dialect of Standard Mandarin is called Chinese because it is the lingua franca of China. There are a myriad of other distinct etymological groupings within the Middle Kingdom but not one of these is as pervasive as the Standard Mandarin dialect. The cultural significance of the Standard Mandarin dialect can therefore hardly be overstated. All this means that it is standard Mandarin that holds the key to exploring China. Proficiency in this mode of communication therefore means that you will be able to speak to another one fifth of mankind. Unless you already do not speak English, which I assume you do, as you are reading this, there is no language that will grant you the same new scope of opportunities.
I recently heard a great quote about working in China. A young professional was giving his acceptance speech at a scholarship rewarding ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. The scholarship was awarded to him so that he could work in the Swedish Trade Council office in China for a year. He had gotten the stipend because of his ability to passionately communicate the nature of Mandarin language studies and China in general. In his speech he said that working, living and breathing in Shanghai is like being in New York at the turn of the last century. There is an enormous enthusiasm in China today.
This is not strange. Over the last 20 years Chinas economy has almost doubled 4 times. This cataclysmic force has left very little of what existed before intact. The enormous power behind Chinas roaring market liberalization has lifted one billion people out poverty and has created a new super power. China is in many ways the only real contender in the race of global dominance with The United States of America. We speak about the G2 today. A concept that will gather an increasing momentum in the future.
Popular culture too is taking notice. Chinas ascension into the world’s limelight really began in 2008 with the Olympics. Here the world could see the results of all the exported happy meal toys. An industrialized economic marvel of infrastructure had been created in Beijing. Since then China’s profile has been continually raised in Hollywood and elsewhere. In 2009 the film 2011 came out. It told the tale of impending doom for earth and mankind. The first half of the film is devoted to the signs that the earth’s core is heating up and about to explode. The second half is about all the characters trying to get to China because it is the Chinese that are going to save us all. China has used its manufacturing prowess to create a batch of high tech arks that will survive the second deluge that even inundated the Himalayas. The only mention of Europe is a car crash in Paris and the subsequent destruction of the continent when the world explodes. It is a clear sign that popular opinion is about to change, or already has changed, when Hollywood starts making films about it. Already in 2009 this point was coming across in the media: China is here to stay.
However, in 2009, the full brunt force of the economic trauma had yet to be reached. The real public relations success of the so-called Beijing consensus was not yet visible. China would spend the next year sailing smoothly in the wreckage of the world economy. This, more than any other monument to Chinese recent achievements, marks the end of American super dominance of geo political issues.
China is today, and will be much more so in the future, a very worthy contender for the heavy weight title. With it, Mandarin will grown in importance as a mode of communication, and with that so will Mandarin language studies. China and Standard Mandarin is here to stay.
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