[EDLING:1232] Learning Chinese Becomes New Fad
Francis M. Hult
fmhult at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Wed Feb 8 04:48:31 UTC 2006
The Korea Times
Learning Chinese Becomes New Fad
By Yoon Ja-young
When you decide to learn a foreign language, you don¡¯t just pick any foreign
language. Few people would choose to learn a language spoken by only a few
hundred people in an African tribe. Popularity of a language reflects the
country¡¯s economic power and opportunities people see there.
English has been the number one language and will be so for a long time to
come, for sure, but Chinese seems to be the hottest language these days.
With China¡¯s rise to a world, economic powerhouse demand for its language
According to BBC News, an increasing number of American families with high
disposable income are looking to employ mandarin-speaking nannies so that
their children can `pick up¡¯ Chinese. The law of supply and demand applies
here, and the salaries for Chinese-speaking nannies have soared. One Chinese
woman got an annual salary of $ 70,000 as two families competed for her
services, BBC News reported.
Some Korean parents couldn¡¯t afford the nanny, but had a brilliant idea: send
their children to Chinese schools in Korea. ``Korean parents keep asking if
Korean students can be admitted to the school,¡¯¡¯ a teacher at Wonju Overseas
Chinese School told The Korea Times.
The idea of Koreans sending their children to a Chinese school has become so
popular that some of the overseas Chinese schools here have more Korean than
``To learn Chinese, overseas Chinese School is better than any private
language institute. It¡¯s much cheaper and provides moral education (which
private institutes don¡¯t). If there¡¯s any institute better than here, please
let me know where,¡¯¡¯ says a Korean mother who sends her child to Suwon
Overseas Chinese School.
In Seoul, a Korean father of two children, aged five and two, plans enrolling
them children in an overseas Chinese school.
``I think China is about to hold the hegemony of the world economy. I want my
children to be fluent in not only English but also Chinese,¡¯¡¯ he explained.
Until a few years ago, most high schools in Korea taught German or French as
the next foreign language after English. According to the Ministry of
Education and Human Resources Development, however, only 17. 2 percent of the
545 high schools in Seoul chose German in 2005, while 13.8 percent selected
However, while Japanese remains the number one foreign language (after
English) with 46.1 percent of schools providing classes, the rise of Chinese
is amazing with 351 high schools around the country choosing Chinese in 2002
and now that has almost doubled to 631 schools.
Korean companies are also encouraging employees to learn Chinese. Cho Hyun-
woo, an employee at LG Chem, says learning Chinese is his New Year resolution.
``There is a Chinese class for employees and a chance to join the training
course, where people solely concentrate on practicing Chinese for two months.
English class has been the most popular, but more people around me are taking
Chinese,¡¯¡¯ Cho said.
The fervor to learn Chinese seems universal. Michael Vatikiotis wrote in an
article contributed to International Herald Tribune ``You can wander along the
crowded streets of Chiang Mai or Bangkok and find Chinese language schools as
easily as internet cafes.¡¯¡¯
Thailand¡¯s education ministry hopes one third of their high school students
will become proficient in Chinese.
In the U.K., an independent college became the first in the country to make
Chinese a compulsory subject.
``This year China replaced Britain as the world's fourth largest economy. We
in Britain need to face up to this challenge, see it for the trading
opportunity that it is, and ensure that our nation's children are well-placed
to thrive in this new global reality,¡¯¡¯ said Richard Cairns, head teacher at
Brighton College, according to BBC News.
The Chinese government is also trying to promote Chinese language education
China is establishing the Confucius Institute, a Chinese language institute
modeled on the German Goethe Institute and France¡¯s Alliance Francaise around
the world, and China¡¯s deputy education minister recently signed an agreement
with Thailand to help train 1,000 Chinese language teachers every year.
With China¡¯s hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics and its rise as core-player
on the world economy, the popularity of learning Chinese seems likely to
continue a long time.
chizpizza at koreatimes.co.kr
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