[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
Staff Reporter

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 
Chinese students.

``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 

02-07-2006 17:23  

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