(For this article, Chinese refers to Mandarin unless otherwise stated.)
‘Obama wants 1 million Americans learning Chinese by 2020’ – 2015 Washington Examiner
‘A new £10 million Mandarin excellence programme will see at least 5,000 young people on track towards fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020.’ – 2016 gov.uk
‘Donald Trump’s granddaughter steals the show in China with performance in Mandarin’– 2017 ABC News
You have probably seen some of the above (if not all) news headlines in recent years, highlighting the growing importance of the Chinese language globally. In Hong Kong, however, there seems to be an opposite trend of parents putting an emphasis on English rather than Chinese:
‘My child can speak Cantonese already, why should he bother learning Mandarin? He can speak it at a very basic level anyway.’
‘English is more important – it can open doors for you!’
‘I don’t want to work in China so why should I bother? It will be no use to me!’
However, are these really good enough justifications for not learning Chinese? Should you bother with learning to speak PROFICIENT Chinese? Here, I am going to tell you why you should start learning Chinese NOW.
Whilst most countries are facing economic struggles, China continues to surpass growth forecast and has now become one of the most influential countries, with every decision it makes affecting the rest of the world. According to the World Economic Forum, it is now the single largest contributor to world GDP growth. And it remains one of the main trading partners of the US – why do you think Trump’s granddaughter is learning Chinese? 😛
Additionally, upon my search, I found out that there is roughly 848 million proficient Chinese speakers, which is more than double of that of English speakers (335 million). China will continue to be a place of high interest for international businesses with plenty of opportunities available, provided that you can speak Chinese. Therefore, learning Chinese will greatly enhance your competitiveness and open up a lot of options for you whether or not you are looking to settle in China or elsewhere.
You might feel that all the above doesn’t affect you because you just want to settle in Hong Kong in the long run – even so, Chinese might come in handy. Firstly, fluency in Cantonese is a must in Hong Kong in most professions – take Medicine as an example. Even if the medical school you are applying to does not necessarily say that you need to speak fluent Cantonese, as you progress down the course you will have to as you are doing your internship or are acting as a resident doctor as you would be working with nurses and other medical professionals, as well as patients. If you want to become a civil servant , you would need to pass a written Chinese exam and English exam before you can proceed to the next stage. Moreover, all senior governors in Hong Kong have to be able to speak fluent Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese) and English – for official ceremonies, addressing questions in the press, etc. For law, as a professional lawyer in Hong Kong, you will be dealing with local clients and also Mandarin speaking clients – would speaking ‘basic’ Chinese be good enough?
The Chinese language is a beautiful language with six thousand years of rich history. To be proficient in Chinese means that you have the opportunity to appreciate the social and cultural context and development. You will get to understand the people and their way of viewing the world to widen your horizon. Chinese idioms and sayings are also very witty and interesting – do you know what ‘Nine cows one hair’ (九牛一毛) means? Can you guess what ‘Picking a bone from an egg’ (雞蛋裡挑骨頭) is referring to? Last but not least, if you are of Chinese ethnicity, it would be a great shame to not be able to speak fluent Chinese, don’t you think?
Educated at Badminton School, Kitty obtained a First Class Honours degree in Biomedical Engineering, followed by a MSc degree specialising in Medical Physics, both from Imperial College. Kitty has experience teaching students subjects such as Maths, Sciences, as well as educating young children Programming. As the former Departmental Representative of her degree, she also understands university admissions and is well placed to assist with school and university applications.
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