There are many places in the world well worth visiting and a great deal of languages well worth learning. Few languages, however, offer the same bright professional prospects as proficiency in the lingua franca of the Middle Kingdom. China is happening and with it, so are Mandarin language studies. Today almost everyone knows that China is different type of country now compared to what it was even 10 years ago. Most people are not too familiar with the details about how that rise came about, with the start of market reform, to the opening of the first stock exchange, the entry into the world trade organization and the reform regarding the flow of capital from and to China. What people do know is that China is a rising power. We speak about an awakened dragon. China is country that accounts for one sixth of the world’s population. China is the world leader in not only exports, but today also in high tech exports. When the giant dragon sneezes, like giant Gulliver, the surrounding nations take notice.
Most westerners can tell you a few stories of how one large company after another moved production to The Middle Kingdom. Already today, but more so in the future, other similar trends will emerge. When western economies foundered in the wake of the global banking crisis China grew at an annualised rate of almost 10%. A growth prospect that no western nation has seen for centuries. In all these ways China is less a country and more a continent in its own right, and a hungry continent at that. With average wages a fraction of American salaries the dragon has an immense potential to still continue to grow far into the future.
The future will see a different world from the one we see today. But what does business say about China and Chinese language studies? This is an interview with a leading human resources consultant with 20 years experience within the Nordic investment banking industry in leading management positions in New York, London and the Nordic region. We asked Mats the question: why should people study mandarin? This is what he told us.
The first reason is naturally the growing importance of China as a super power and its emergence as a major player in world trade. To set this into a perspective the value of European trade with China has grown nearly 500% during the last 10 years and since 1996, when China surpassed the US, China has become EUs most important trading partner.
From the first point it follows that western societies will face growing interaction with Chinese people. In this respect it is important to bear in mind that although trade is international, business is local. Therefore the ability to communicate in the Chinese local language, understand the culture, know general etiquette and business conduct – in essence to understand the Chinese mind – will become paramount in the future. Today in Europe there are about 250 million people speaking English, 150 million speaking German and 125 million speaking French. At the same time only X people are fluent in Mandarin implying ample opportunity for those wanting to acquire this skill to position themselves in a unique place in the labour market.
The third reason comes from having worked nearly twenty years in recruiting and training graduates I often get the question what makes up a good CV. In my opinion the number one priority is of course good solid grades from University. Then one looks for features that: stand out, show some special added value, show initiative, show interest in meeting new people, and show eagerness to take on challenges. In this regard even if one were not to use the acquired language skills directly, the engagement in serious Mandarin studies for an extended period of time will certainly fall into this category and set a person apart from the crowd.