To learn Mandarin, the lingua franca of the rising Middle Kingdom, is a better idea today that it has ever been before. For starters, Mandarin, or Standard Mandarin, as it is actually more correctly known as, is the only real gateway to China. There are over 50 linguistically divided cultural groups in China which all share but one common language. Secondly, China has never been more interesting.
That is quite a statement given that China has existed for over 5000 years, but lets examine the idea further. For 99% of that time China has been large enough to only be occupied with itself. China’s isolationism is probably the most successful time of introspection in the history of mankind, given that it existed for almost 3000 years before the British blew that notion to smithereens in the 17th century. After that, China was really, in one way or another, under the constant boot of other people. Today, however, that has changed.
It did not happened overnight but China is a growing superpower that will influence the future in a way that is very hard to even imagine today. The Washington consensus has been the order of the day for most of currently alive people’s memory. To see a balance between east and west is a very strange notion, but a notion that is coming lightning fast. The change is of course also due to India, but there is no doubt to which the crown of the Asian reemerging markets needs to be given. The next decades will see a continuous shift from a Washington consensus to a G2, bi-polar, world order. The future is also likely to see an increasingly Beijing dominated agenda.
But we get ahead of ourselves, that future is still far ahead of us. Let us instead talk about how we will see a more multi-polar world in the medium term. China does hold the world record for isolationism in the past; today it holds the record for globalization. China’s amazing economy shows the strongest growth figures in the world. In 2010 Chinese growth will account for more than one fourth of total global increases. Economist today are not focusing on the west in the same sense that they have for the last… However long economists have existed.
There has been a change. Today the words are: emerging markets. The benefits of pure (ish) capitalism were severally punched in the face during the last economic crisis. While financial markets literally collapsed and Wall Street was busy playing bail out galore, China was steaming ahead at full speed towards better and bigger things. Today, as global markets are still recuperating, China’s trajectory is bound for the stratosphere.
That takes care of why. Now to define how. Firstly, your studies should be in China. Not only is it much easier to learn any a language in the country in which it is spoken, for Mandarin these benefits are much bigger than for other language. The reason that practicing mandarin in a native environment is so beneficial is that Mandarin is very different from most other languages that you probably have come into contact with. For some people this seems to make Mandarin inherently much more difficult, but I think that this statement is in massive need of qualification. It makes it harder, yes, but if you live in China and you hear and see Chinese Mandarin every day, this element is reduced to a much smaller obstacle.
Secondly, you should focus on personal content. By personal content I mean the stuff that would enable you to practice mandarin. Sure, learning how to order food in a restaurant offers one way of doing this but it will never take you beyond basic grammar. But if you acquire the language skills specifically needed for you hobbies or work, you will take your studies to a whole new level. The key to China is Mandarin. The key to Mandarin is going to China and enabling yourself to practice speaking the language in a setting that matters for your own objectives for wanting to learn the language.
About the Author
Rui Ming works for a Mandarin academy that is a great option for those that want to learn Chinese. If you are interested in more information about learning Chinese in China, please consult the website of Beijing Gateway Academy.