Mandarin’s rise to prominence and why you should pick it up
Mandarin is the most widely-spoken language in the world. Source: Eliabe Costa/Unsplash

Within the global landscape, English has long been touted as the language of choice in business or popular culture. But trends suggest that Mandarin now rivals English as a universal language.

China’s continued growth and its subsequent emergence as a global superpower has catapulted Mandarin even further as a lingua franca. As Chinese companies cater towards more than just local demands, they diversify. This is reflected in Chinese investment in many developing and developed nations.

For students to remain competitive in this increasingly globalised world, it’s necessary for them to equip themselves with one of the essential ingredients – Mandarin – to significantly improve their employability post-graduation.

Proficiency in Mandarin is going to be an ever-present requirement. These overseas overtures by Chinese conglomerates abroad means the language could be the lingua franca, even if they are based in different countries.

So, should you pick up Mandarin? Some famous individuals, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Australia’s former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, have learnt the language – and we believe you should too.

Here are four reasons why Mandarin is overtaking English as the new lingua franca.

It’s the most widely spoken language in the world

Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world – specifically Mandarin – with an estimated one billion speakers globally.

Mandarin speakers span the globe – this includes Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and fast-emerging nations such as Indonesia and the Philippines, so picking up this language will prove useful upon graduation, regardless of where you choose to live or work.

Employers seek Mandarin speakers

A survey by the British Council’s Mandarin Excellence Programme found that over three-quarters of UK business leaders believe fluency in Mandarin will give school leavers and graduates a distinct career advantage, with more than a quarter calling this edge “significant”.

And this is no surprise; in an increasingly globalised world, multilinguists can communicate with different communities comfortably. Jobs such as that of an interpreter could be propelled into significance in corporate meetings, with the individual serving as a conduit between non-Mandarin and Mandarin speakers.

Additionally, listing Mandarin as a second language could nudge you ahead of job applicants whose qualifications may be similar to yours, save for their linguistic shortcomings.

Students who learn to speak Mandarin also open themselves up to a broader range of career opportunities, stand a chance of earning more and even succeed in their applications to a job postings abroad. For example, those looking to join the financial sector in Hong Kong will find that the ability to speak in Mandarin can advance them in the job market.

Fluency in Mandarin is greatly valued by the modern employer. Source: Lim Yong Hian/Shutterstock

China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse

According to The World Bank, China is “the second largest economy and is increasingly playing an important and influential role in the development of the global economy.”

Apart from being the world’s largest trading nation, Bloomberg notes that China’s GDP is set to beat the combined US$12.8 trillion combined total of the 19 countries that use the euro.

While this shows China’s growing impact, it’s essential to note that many companies, regardless of location, may secure a portion of their revenue overseas. This makes learning the language of the market you choose to enter valuable from a business perspective.

And with China emerging as an economic powerhouse, learning to speak Mandarin is imperative for graduates entering a global workforce, especially when dealing with their Chinese counterparts at home and abroad.

Growing reputation of Chinese universities

Chinese universities are clearly enjoying a growing reputation, as seen from its steady ascend in university rankings. Times Higher Education (THE) notes that in 2011, there were six Chinese universities in the THE World University Rankings, compared to 72 in this year’s rankings.

Three of China’s universities are ranked among the top 50 universities in the world, according to THE‘s most recent global rankings. These include Tsinghua University (17th), Peking University (30th) and Fudan University (44th).

Apart from improved rankings, China has also been maintaining double-digit percentage growth of international students choosing to study in the country. There are clear benefits for China-bound international students who pick up Mandarin as a second language.

As Chinese universities improve in rankings and reputation, the country becomes a favourable option for students seeking to pursue their undergraduate or postgraduate studies in China. Students here won’t only gain a better understanding of the country’s culture and language, but it may also be useful in their careers post-graduation.

In an increasingly globalised world, merely having basic tertiary qualifications may not be sufficient to stay competitive. This coupled with the rise of Mandarin as a global language could herald the emergence of a new lingua franca, making it an indispensable skill for students to gain.

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