Based on their recent research, the British Council has warned that the number of pupils in schools who are learning Chinese Mandarin is still very low especially considering the importance of this language in the business world. Speaking at a conference last year David Cameron remarked: “By the time the children born today leave school, China is set to be the world’s largest economy. So it’s time to look beyond the traditional focus on French and German and get many more children learning Mandarin.”
His words are almost echoed today by Education Minister, Elizabeth Truss, “China’s growing economy brings huge business opportunities for Britain, and it is vital that more of our young people can speak Mandarin to be able to trade in a global market and to develop successful companies.”
Although interest in Mandarin is on the increase with it being the fifth most popular language choice at evening classes, the main problem lies in the fact that there are too few qualified teachers who can teach the language in state schools.
In her speech, Ms Truss announced the opening of the Confucius Institute next year which is intended to increase the number of Mandarin teachers to 1,200 by 2019. It is hoped that in the years to come the percentage of state schools teaching Mandarin will rise from the current 11%. Part of Government’s Education Reform is the teaching of foreign language to primary school children and in some schools Mandarin is already one of the choices on offer.
The emphasis is on more schools to start teaching the language but adults are also encouraged to start learning as it could improve their job prospects and future careers. With one billion people on the planet speaking Mandarin you won’t have to try too hard finding someone to converse with. There is a growing demand for websites to be translated from Mandarin to English and vice versa, which is not surprising when we consider that 75% of internet users are Chinese.
Described as the language of the future, mastering Mandarin Chinese would undoubtedly open many doors for those looking to learn it. As Martin Davidson of the British Council points out: “The UK’s future prosperity depends, in no small part, on our ability to communicate and build relationships with people from around the world, and there are few more important partners for us than China.”