So you might be still slightly unsure about why we’re so keen to help children develop fluency in Mandarin as well as English. After all, isn’t it on the other side of the planet? Will it be relevant to your child? Absolutely. And even more so in the future. Here’s why:
- Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world with a whopping 1.2 billion native speakers of the language (Ethnologue Index). That’s approximately around 17% of the total population on the planet. Number two in the world would be Spanish, spoken in 31 countries but with a paltry 414million native speakers, or nearly 6% in comparison. And English? English takes third place with only 315 million native speakers (4.7%).
- Think that it’s only spoken in China? Think again. It’s spoken in 33 countries around the world against Spanish spoken in 31.
- It’s beautiful both aesthetically and at a neurological level – if you’ve ever seen the written script, you would have appreciated how beautiful it is. But were you aware that in beginning to understand the multiple meanings of each character, you dramatically increase your conceptual abilities? It literally widens your mind. Imagine what it can do for your baby as his or her brain develops.
- UK and China don’t have strong ties? Think again. In 2014 UK-Chinese trade surpassed £43billion and with an economy that averaged 10% growth year on year for the last decade, it’s now the largest economy in the world according to the IMF. It is already having a huge impact on your lives and will do so even more in the future.
- David Cameron, the UK’s then PM, acknowledged its importance by announcing that Mandarin will now be part of the National Curriculum, so your child is more than likely going to have the opportunity to pursue the language in primary and secondary schools in the UK. Imagine if he or she was fluent before arriving? How much easier would that subject be?
- Not so many Chinese in the UK? Think again, the Chinese diaspora sits around 400,000 and we’ve been bedfellows here in the UK for325 years. Don’t think so? Where do you think we get words like ‘ketchup’ or phrases like “chop chop” or “long time no see”. That’s right – Chinese. There are some lovely stories about the Chinese community in the UK and a great project by the Ming Ai Institute
- Chinese companies are setting up shop right here in London. Wanda Group has invested £700m in 9 Elms, the largest residential development in Europe along the Southbank; Zhongrong will be re-developing London’sCrystal Palace; Knight Dragon is re-designing the entire Greenwich Peninsula; and ABP is developing an Oriental City in London’s docklands.
- It means more to know another language – as Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart” so those who know how to communicate confidently with this growing community in the UK will reap the rewards. But don’t take our word for it. Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, was an internet sensation when he gave a speech in Mandarin whilst in Beijing this summer.
- There were 80,000 Chinese students studying in the UK in 2011-2012, according to UKCISA but CSSA, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, believes that it could be as high as 100,000 today, with 30,000 arriving each year to study. And the British Government wants our students to head over there as well, planning for 80,000 British students to be studying in China by 2020
But most importantly, why not? It is the language of a country that has over 5000 years of recorded history; of a culture that has given us, here in the UK, the foundations for our civil service (modelled almost entirely on China’s imperial bureaucracy); of a country that was the first to develop the concept and then practice of a meritocratic society (in 221 BCE) wherein it didn’t matter what your station was, if you had good ideas and made them work you could and would rise up to help run the country; one that shared our more traditional community values…it’s interesting. And will be made more so by your child’s ability to speak it. So try something new, it will make all the difference in their lives.