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

US Storm Falls Short of Severe Predictions, Yet Affects Millions

Governors of several East Coast states close schools, order travel bans, urge people to stay home as snowfall, heavy winds, flooding continue in areas More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle with Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people were displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid