News / Asia

Interest in Learning Chinese May be Growing Exponentially

A child walks past large Chinese characters which partly reads
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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs