Mention actors Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, and most American students would be delighted to discuss at great length their popular box office movies, and perhaps even recite some of their famous lines.
Few would disagree with their iconic status in the United States. But the Chinese language? Not so popular!
In fact, many people, upon hearing it, perceive it to be complex and too difficult to understand. For this reason, getting students to sign up for Chinese as a language option is a hard sell. Instead, many settle for something they believe to be easier and more useful—like Spanish.
Yet, there are actually many benefits to children learning Chinese. Particularly those in school who may be embarking upon new job experiences or internships that will require language skills.
Benefits to English speaking children learning Chinese
1. Chinese is the language of nearly 25% of the world’s population (1.4 billion people), spread around the globe.
2. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Students who can write Chinese characters score higher in mathematics.”
3. Learning Chinese can open the possibility of future career possibilities and expand student‘s marketability. According to Employabroad.com, “China is an immense market for American growth and services, and a vital supplier to American markets and consumers.”
4. Mastery of the Chinese language can prove to be very beneficial for those who embark upon traveling and studying abroad.
5. Because Chinese is considered to be a difficult language, learning it, and establishing a level of fluency is a great way to impress friends, family, teachers and peers.
6. Studying Chinese satisfies and establishes second language credit at many high schools in the United States.
7. Studying Chinese makes English students more well rounded, as does any skill that extends beyond the basics. Additionally, students are likely to cultivate greater study skills and more discipline in the process. Research further suggests that students who are bilingual perform better at multitasking.
8. Knowing different languages typically increases one’s earning potential. Chinese, especially, is a marketable skill because China now holds the world’s second largest economy in terms of nominal GDP.
9. Chinese proficiency can be developed in ways that were not available before the internet or the iPod. Podcasts, iPhone apps, interactive websites, and other resources all make for innovative and fun ways to learn Chinese.
10. Learning the language exposes students to great literature and a rich culture. The Chinese culture is over 5,000 years old.
As these examples demonstrate, there are many reasons students should consider studying Chinese for academic or personal reasons. Doing so can greatly enrich their academic experience and open career opportunities. As with all things, “knowledge is power.”