Just exactly what is Mandarin Chinese? Mandarin Chinese is the official spoken language of The People’s Republic of China. However, for me, the word mandarin has always been associated with the word oranges. Taking it further, for me, the word oranges has always been associated with Florida. This is a perfect example of how provincial people can be in their thinking.
The United States has most definitely proven to be provincial in its thinking as well, particularly when it comes to the words, “Mandarin Chinese.” This is slowly beginning to change. In fact, small ripples of this imminent change have already been felt in large cities like Chicago, Illinois and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Fortunately, classrooms in America have undergone various changes throughout the years. A newly discovered interest in Mandarin Chinese is emerging in the United States today. No longer will schools be looking to teach the “typical” languages offered, but rather, they will be seeking to teach the languages of the corporate world.
High schools, typically, offer Spanish, French, and German in their language curriculum. Italian and Latin are also offered at a majority of high schools. Spanish remains the most popular language to learn or teach for obvious reasons. The majority of the elementary schools generally offer Spanish or French. Sadly, most other languages are truant from American schools and there are no truant officers available to corral them.
Although Mandarin Chinese is widely spoken, it is certainly one of the most difficult languages to learn. In addition to that fact, include the fact that qualified teachers of Mandarin Chinese are few and far between, and the gravity of the situation glares back at you like a wild creature’s eyes in the night.
As the ripple widens and new ripples are formed in other cities and states, the demand for qualified teachers of Mandarin Chinese will grow. Native speakers of the language are, by far, the best qualified and would be capable of teaching other subjects, as well, in their native tongue. Students, with a teacher such as this, will reap the benefits of learning the language at a faster pace and a more developed level.
To get around a lack of qualified teachers, several steps can be taken. Teacher exchanges, long-distance learning, teacher training, and alternative teaching certification for individuals who are fluent in the language are all avenues to explore. Any one of them would be beneficial to the mission of teaching up and coming languages.
Mandarin Chinese, or Standard Mandarin, as it is also known, has no true alphabet. Rather, the language consists of over three thousand base characters that are used to form words. Learning the language means memorizing the language. This is even more reason to begin teaching Mandarin Chinese in the elementary schools when children are most adaptable to learning a second language.
Currently, relatively few schools, at any level, are actively offering Mandarin Chinese instruction to its students. However, educators and government officials are actively searching for ways to incorporate changes that will allow this to happen.
Why the sudden urgency for Americans to learn Mandarin Chinese? Maybe it isn’t so sudden. Maybe it has been evolving gradually, and people are simply more aware of it. However, as China emerges as a powerful player in the corporate world and global economy, the United States needs to prepare its workforce to compete not only with international skills and knowledge, but also with international languages. International languages are a big part of the corporate world and it is past time for the United States to catch up.