News / Asia

    Interest in Learning Chinese May be Growing Exponentially

    A child walks past large Chinese characters which partly reads "Study!" at the New Century Experimental School in Qikeshu village on the outskirts of Beijing (File Photo)
    A child walks past large Chinese characters which partly reads "Study!" at the New Century Experimental School in Qikeshu village on the outskirts of Beijing (File Photo)

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Ira Mellman

    Chinese media has come out with a report saying that more than 40 million foreigners around the world are learning Chinese. The reports quote a senior official with the Confucius Institute Headquarters.

    We decided to see how fast Chinese language learning is growing in the United States. We checked with a company called Rosetta Stone, which offers computer language learning services in 24 languages, including Chinese.

    A spokesperson told us Chinese is among the top 10 languages sold with a huge increase over a one year period from 2008 to 2009 in corporate sales, an increase of 719 percent.

    We also spoke with Chris Livaccari, Associate Director of Education and Chinese language initiatives for the New York based Asia Society.

    Ira Mellman: Chris, why such a rapid growth in people wanting to learn Chinese?

    Chris Livaccari: "I think in some ways there is an analogy with what happened with Japanese in the 1980s.  And I've also been a Japanese language teacher, so I've seen this from both perspectives.  I think in the United States if you look at the headlines over the last several years, it's clear that there is a perception among Americans that China is the place that is going to define our future."

    "And that the relationship between the United States and China is the most important bilateral relationship in the world right now. And so I think that realization, or that perception among Americans, has really fueled the growth of Chinese language programs, Again, much as we saw the growth of Japanese language programs in the 1980s and 1990s."

    Ira Mellman: "Is Chinese a difficult language for an English speaker to learn?"

    Chris Livaccari: "It is in some ways and in some ways not so difficult.  The biggest challenge for American learners of Chinese is definitely the writing system. And the Chinese writing system is difficult even for Chinese people. As you know, it is a character-based language and it is completely different really from every other language that is in use in the world today for that reason. If you look at the scripts used in every other language used on on earth right now, for the most part they all come from a common ancestor."

    "An alphabetic or syllabic system probably developed in Mesopotamia several thousand years ago. But Chinese is really unique. it takes an incredible investment of time and energy for students to know enough Chinese characters to be literate. So, it's a great challenge, but it comes with great opportunities. Because learning Chinese characters use other parts of your brain and develop other academic skills that other languages simply don't touch on. So I think it is a difficult language, that's obvious. But I think there is a real benefit to investing in the study of Chinese."

    Ira Mellman: "And what is that?"

    Chris Livaccari: "I think there are a number of things, but I would say one is many peole have commented on the spectacular success of China in the education realm, especially if you look at math and science and if you look at the results of the PISA exams that were released last Wednesday, the spectacular success in science and math in particular among Chinese-speaking nations, has been observed as potentially something that is contributed to by the fact that Chinese students are trained from a very early age at things like pattern recognition and memorization through their learning of Chinese characters. So I think there is a link in terms of students' cognitive skills development that is trained by learning Chinese characters."

    "The other thing that is very important I think about learning Chinese and Chinese characters for American students, in terms of the benefit, is that because Chinese is such a different language, structurally,  from English, it really enables students to see things from a completely different perspective. And helps them understand the idea of multiple perspectives and multiple viewpoints. So that, I think, for American students is the most important benefit to learn a challenging language that can build their confidence and learn a language that is quite different that can open their eyes to how language works and how multiple perspectives work."

    Ira Mellman: Do you think Chinese learning is the fastest growing language learning in the world?

    Chris Livaccari: "I don't have clear evidence as to if it is the fastest growing language in the world. But I wouldn't be surprised.  In addition to the Rosetta Stone numbers you mentioned, I believe the American Council of the Teaching Foreign Languages has just released a report that suggests also Chinese the fastest growing language, with a growth rate of 195%. That's just talking about the United States.  But I think it is clear that if it is not the fastest growing language in every country in the world, I think is is probably, overall, the fastest growing language in the world."

    Chris Livaccari is Associate Director of Education and Chinese language initiatives for the New York-based Asia Society.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora