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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

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