News | 10.06.2010

The popularity of Mandarin Chinese in classrooms worldwide

China’s economic foothold in Africa and Latin America has been growing for many years. The upward trend in Chinese outward direct foreign investment has meant that an increasing number of schools worldwide are incorporating the teaching of Mandarin Chinese into their syllabuses. In Indonesia, lessons in Mandarin Chinese are compulsory in some schools, whilst in the United States, extra-curricular language classes are proving increasingly popular.

Strengthening educational and cultural exchange and cooperation between China and other countries* led the Chinese government to set up the Confucius Institute. This promotes the teaching of Chinese as a foreign language, and also provides native speaker teachers to the various Confucius Institutes located around the world. Its website records a total of 523 institutes in 87 countries as of October 2009 and it provides over 4,500 teachers on mostly three-year contracts.

The New York Times recently reported on two such schemes in Indonesia and the United States. In May 2010, it charted the success of the scheme in Lamongan, Indonesia, where teaching Mandarin Chinese is compulsory for every school in the region. In addition to language classes, the local government have also been holding “Mandarin speech contests” over the last two years. With Sino-Indonesian trade rising to just over $28 billion in 2009, this growing trade volume means that young people are keen to learn Chinese in order to improve their future employability.

In Mexico, the government has introduced a pilot scheme to teach school children Mandarin Chinese in the state of Aguascalientes, whilst in the United States, extra-curricular classes are becoming increasingly popular. And China’s inroads into the African continent have had such an impact, that Mandarin Chinese language teaching has been added to some primary school curriculums in Lagos, Nigeria.

As trade with China is set to increase dramatically over the coming decade, not only will these cultural and linguistic exchanges help to promote the teaching of Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language, these programmes will also mean increased mobility in the international labour market for the thousands of children involved.


Sources:The New York Times,, LA Times

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