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y career has been heav­ily in­flu­enced by my Chi­nese lan­guage stud­ies,” says Cassan­dra Ol­son. “Dur­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion process for my cur­rent em­ployer, which is head­quar­tered in China, I had a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage com­pared with my peers be­cause I can speak Chi­nese flu­ently.”

Ol­son, from Texas in the United States, be­gan learn­ing Chi­nese at age 18 at Bard Col­lege in New York City. She im­proved her com­mand of the lan­guage by study­ing at Pek­ing Univer­sity in Bei­jing and the Harbin In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Hei­longjiang prov­ince.

Now, work­ing in Los Angeles as busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager for JL Real Es­tate De­vel­op­ment, Ol­son speaks Chi­nese ev­ery day in the of­fice dur­ing meet­ings and in ca­sual con­ver­sa­tion.

“I use Chi­nese to re­spond to an av­er­age of four to 60 WeChat mes­sages ev­ery day,” Ol­son says. As well as phone calls, emails and meet­ings in Chi­nese, she gives at least one pub­lic speech per month to Chi­nese-speak­ing au­di­ences.

“Thanks to my lan­guage skills, I’m able to be­come a bridge and open up a mar­ket that would be in­ac­ces­si­ble for many Amer­i­cans.”

An in­creas­ing num­ber of com­pa­nies in LA are re­cruit­ing bilin­gual Chi­nese speak­ers. A quick search on the on­line busi­ness net­work LinkedIn finds there are nearly 500,000 job open­ings in the US that re­quire Chi­nese lan­guage skills.

The open­ings are in a range of in­dus­tries, in­clud­ing tech­nol­ogy, ed­u­ca­tion, en­ter­tain­ment, hospi­tal­ity, health, fi­nance, bank­ing, real es­tate and mar­ket­ing.

The de­mand for Chi­nese lan­guage skills is be­ing fu­eled by the grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese-speak­ing cus­tomers in the US, ac­cord­ing to the most recently pub­lished re­search by the Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Sur­vey.

More than 1.6 mil­lion of the al­most 3 mil­lion Chi­nese-speak­ing im­mi­grants in the coun­try have re­ported lim­ited pro­fi­ciency in English, the sur­vey found.

In ad­di­tion to im­mi­grants, lo­cal busi­nesses are tak­ing Chi­nese-speak­ing trav­el­ers into con­sid­er­a­tion.

In 2016, al­most 3 mil­lion Chi­nese tourists vis­ited the US, and more than one in three chose LA as the first stop of their trip.

Re­search by the US Depart­ment of Com­merce shows that Chi­nese tourists spent $33 bil­lion (27 bil­lion eu­ros; £21 bil­lion) in the coun­try that year, and ex­perts ex­pect tourist num­bers to con­tinue to grow.

“In the Chi­nese out­bound tourism in­dus­try, cul­ture and lan­guage gaps pre­vent Chi­nese tourists from hav­ing an op­ti­mal travel ex­pe­ri­ence in for­eign coun­tries,” says Betty Ban, co-founder of Voyadi, which of­fers per­son­al­ized ex­pe­ri­ences for in­ter­na­tional trav­el­ers. Its pri­mary mar­ket is Chi­nese out­bound tourists.

“We need more Chi­nese-speak­ing job can­di­dates to work in mar­ket­ing and in cus­tomer­fac­ing roles,” Ban says.

Xiaowei Ding, co-founder and CEO of Vox­el­cloud, a startup in LA that pro­vides au­to­mated med­i­cal di­ag­no­sis as­sis­tance through ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and cloud com­put­ing tech­nolo­gies, says the rapid growth of ven­ture cap­i­tal and China’s huge fi­nan­cial mar­ket means “com­pa­nies whose em­ploy­ees can com­mu­ni­cate in Chi­nese stand out in rais­ing funds, mar­ket­ing and sales”.

Jeff Allred, CEO of the San Gabriel Val­ley Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship, pre­dicts that de­mand for peo­ple able to speak Chi­nese will con­tinue to rise.

His or­ga­ni­za­tion is a re­gional, non­profit cor­po­ra­tion that sup­ports busi­nesses, non­prof­its and lo­cal govern­ments in the San Gabriel Val­ley, the east­ern sec­tion of LA that is fa­mous for Asian cuisine. More than half the Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion in the US lives in the area, ac­cord­ing to re­search by Asian-Amer­i­cans Ad­vanc­ing Justice, a non­profit le­gal aid and civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Reach­ing Chi­nese cus­tomers is not just about speak­ing the lan­guage, though, Allred says. His or­ga­ni­za­tion also helps en­ter­prises in the San Gabriel Val­ley to en­gage with cus­tomers via WeChat, the in­stant-mes­sag­ing and so­cial me­dia app.

Win­ston Xie, head of user ac­qui­si­tion for Air­mule, says, “You have to un­der­stand the mar­ket in or­der to tai­lor an ef­fec­tive mar­ket­ing strat­egy.”

Air­mule is a tech­nol­ogy plat­form in LA that al­lows trav­el­ers to earn money dur­ing in­ter­na­tional flights by work­ing as on­board couri­ers.

“WeChat and Sina Weibo — of­ten known as China’s ver­sion of Twit­ter — are great chan­nels,” Xie says.

“They can help our com­pany to target a specif­i­cally Chi­nese au­di­ence.

“How­ever, to max­i­mize the power of these mar­ket­ing chan­nels, it’s im­por­tant to know the Chi­nese mar­ket.

“For ex­am­ple, if your com­pany is tar­get­ing the younger gen­er­a­tion, you need to know what Chi­nese mil­len­ni­als are in­ter­ested in, and un­der­stand the new­est trends in China.”

Re­flect­ing on her ex­pe­ri­ences learn­ing Chi­nese, Ol­son speaks of the “won­der­ful sur­prises” her un­der­stand­ing of Chi­nese has brought to her life and career.

“The truly awe-in­spir­ing thing is re­al­iz­ing that know­ing Chi­nese opens up com­mu­ni­ca­tion with over 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple who I would not have been able to com­mu­ni­cate with be­fore. That is truly amaz­ing to think about,” she says.

To bet­ter meet de­mand for Chi­nese learn­ing over­seas, Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes have been es­tab­lished world­wide since 2004.

The in­sti­tutes, which are af­fil­i­ated with the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, are non­profit pub­lic ed­u­ca­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions that aim to pro­mote Chi­nese lan­guage and cul­ture, sup­port lo­cal Chi­nese teach­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally, and fa­cil­i­tate cul­tural ex­changes.

As of Septem­ber, 516 Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes had been es­tab­lished in 142 coun­tries and re­gions across the world, help­ing more than 7 mil­lion peo­ple learn Chi­nese, ac­cord­ing to the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute Head­quar­ters, which is in Bei­jing.

Mean­while, en­thu­si­asm for learn­ing Chi­nese has been ris­ing con­tin­u­ously among stu­dents over­seas, largely as a re­sult of China’s dra­matic eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and in­creas­ingly fre­quent ex­changes with the coun­try.

To date, at least 67 coun­tries have made Chi­nese teach­ing manda­tory in their na­tional ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems, and more e than 170 coun­tries have es­tab­lished Chi­nese - classes, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics from m the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute Head­quar­ters.

In ad­di­tion to the govern­ment-backed d efforts to pro­mote the lan­guage over­seas s, savvy Chi­nese en­trepreneurs have be­gun to o tap into the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, rid­ing g on the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the lan­guage.

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