The Beth and Jim Conversations 18

[Beth] What are your feelings on the mindset of thousands and thousands of parents around the world who insist that Mandarin (a dialect of Chinese) is soon to become THE leading world language and a must-learn for every young child who hopes to be successful in our global economy?  This train of thought has taken the focus off of Spanish for many families, schools and centers who opt for second language instruction and placed it on Mandarin.  Are they ‘barking’ up the wrong tree?

[Jim] Do you think they are barking up the wrong tree, Beth?

In the days when I managed a business connecting language students with private language teachers, it was a simple case of supply meeting demand. If the student, or parent, needed a Mandarin teacher I would find one – if I could! That was my job. I did not question their reasons for choosing that language; I did note the reasons so as to better inform the prospective teachers.

True enough, there was a much greater demand for Spanish.

If stories in the media appear saying Mandarin is the next big thing, an essential for business entrepreneurs of the future, then as a parent I might consider it a good idea for my child to start learning Mandarin rather than Spanish.

On the other hand, if I knew about languages, and indeed culture, I would probably choose Spanish for my child because as languages go it’s not a difficult one to learn. And while I am not particularly familiar with South American culture – though I am sure you are, Beth – Spain is very close to the UK and is a massively popular tourist destination (which is just as well for it in the current economic climate). British people are already familiar with Spanish and its cultural ways before they start learning Spanish, and I see this as quite an advantage for Spanish learners as opposed to Mandarin learners.

I don’t feel qualified to speak about the rise of China’s economic status. In this rapidly changing world, with its daily news stories about financial woes, if China, apparently faring better than many other nations, is to succumb economically in the same ways as the likes of Europe and the US, then I imagine all bets will be off from those parents who were lining up Mandarin for their kids.

Spanish, on the other hand, may have greater longevity!

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