Mandarin Chinese is collection of types of Chinese language spoken mostly in north and south western China. Mandarin is the most spoken of the Chinese dialect group, spoken by around 70% of the population, comprising of almost one billion native speakers, and I wish to shortly tell you why YOU should probably start learning the language.
Reason number one: Because there are just so many native speakers. Now there are almost 1bn native speakers of mandarin Chinese. This is over 14% of the whole world’s population. If you think that isn’t much then consider that Spanish, the next most spoken language is only spoken by just below 6% of the world’s population and English, the de facto lingua franca of the modern world is spoken by just above 5% of the world’s population as their first language. If we were to go just by numbers, it would make all the sense to learn mandarin.
Second reason: The spread is still low, but it is growing. As China has been modernising quickly they have also amassed a sizeable middle class, a middle class that moves around the world and settles down in new places, bringing with them their culture, language, and customs. As more Chinese move around the world the spread of their language also comes with them, and when they sometimes have families with non-Chinese those people or their children will often also learn mandarin increasing the number of speakers even more.
Third reason: As Chinese economy grows and their businesses with it, more Chinese businesspeople enter the global marketplace as strong players. Recently, not entirely out of their own will, the Chinese government has been forced to open their market to the world, even to the extent of having to sell government bonds on the international market. Now Chinese businesses are flooding into the western marketspace buying up companies and striking deals left and right. In such a business environment it would only be beneficial to learn the first language of those you’re planning to deal with, also it is harder to speak secrets in front of you if you can also speak the language.
Fourth reason: The western rule over the modern world is ending while the east is rising as the new leader. If there is any need to doubt this we should look at the political and cultural upheavals in the west, financial crisis and the recent G7 meeting which failed to reach an consensus and was overshadowed by the US declaring a trade war on all of its key allies. All the while this has been happening the east had their own Shanghai summit where Russia, China and handful of other Asian power players met to discuss world events and to strike deals, easily reaching a consensus in amicable terms. This compared to the west where our great world leaders are having twitter wars with each other and hand shake competitions on the side,
Fifth reason: Learning mandarin is hard. Now this might be a bit counter intuitive but let me explain. Mandarin is hard, writing it is hard, speaking it is hard and understanding it is hard. All of this forces you to use your brain in ways you haven’t necessarily had to use it before when assessing a language, and while we don’t know much about brains we do know that challenging your cognitive abilities seems to have a positive effect on cognitive functioning. This means that the very action of learning and then using the language will essentially help you train your brain. While this is true for most languages not only mandarin, mandarin is sufficiently different from most western languages that it will challenge you more than you’ve been challenged before.
Sixth reason: It is one of the fastest growing languages in the world. Many people are already trying to learn it because they’ve realised its usefulness.
Seventh reason: Chinese calligraphy is cool, f**k you fight me! Have you not seen the movie “Hero”?
Reason eight: You’ll actually know if the sign you got for your sweet 16 actually says “freedom” or “courage” or whatever edgy stuff your 16-year old self decided was a good idea to ink on your skin permanently.
Reason nine: According to the Asia Society, speaking mandarin makes you better at math. Now they might be just biased in their research but it’s worth the try right?
Reason ten: If you learn it now you get to be the language hipster of tomorrow!
Jokes aside, I don’t actually think that mandarin will ever actually become a true lingua franca, as just the difficulty of the language makes that quite unlikely, but what I do know is that especially if you’re planning to do business on an international scale, want to travel or just want to train your brain it would be a great language to learn. Personally, I have yet to wet my feet in the sea that is Chinese, but after my recent excursion into Japanese I think that I might work my way to Chinese soon enough.