Plans to have 1 mil­lion pupils in Man­darin classes by 2020

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

NEW YORK — The grand­chil­dren of US Pres­i­dent Donald Trump en­deared them­selves to Chi­nese-speak­ing com­mu­ni­ties in early April when they per­formed a folk song in Man­darin for Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping dur­ing the lead­ers’ first meet­ing in Florida.

Trump’s grand­chil­dren Ara­bella and Joseph Kush­ner joined Facebook co-founder Mark Zucker­berg and Malia Obama, for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s daugh­ter, in learn­ing Chi­nese.

But the fol­low­ers of the world’s old­est writ­ten lan­guage are not con­fined to prom­i­nent pub­lic fig­ures. Sta­tis­tics from the United States show Chi­nese is the third most pop­u­lar lan­guage in the coun­try, be­hind English and Span­ish.

Ais­ling McCaf­frey started learn­ing the lan­guage when she was in her first year ma­jor­ing in in­ter­na­tional busi­ness at the Car­leton Univer­sity, Ot­tawa, Canada. Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, she went to Ren­min Univer­sity in Bei­jing for fur­ther stud­ies.

“When I chose Chi­nese, I just thought I don’t know much about China and this will be an op­por­tu­nity for me to learn some­thing and I’m very glad that I did,” she said at the New York-based China In­sti­tute, the old­est ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion de­voted solely to Chi­nese cul­ture in the US.

“I think ev­ery­one be­lieves that China will be the next great su­per­power ... even if it’s not a su­per­power like Amer­ica. It’s still very sig­nif­i­cant,” she said. “And learn­ing Chi­nese is the best way to make sure that you can be part of that growth.”

McCaf­frey has re­cently re­lo­cated to New York City with her boyfriend af­ter work­ing a few years at the Cana­dian Cham­ber of Com­merce in Shang­hai, China. She comes to the monthly Man­darin meetup at the China In­sti­tute while re­search­ing the next step in her ca­reer.

“To be hon­est, the fact that I didn’t know much about China be­fore and then I de­vel­oped this love for China, I spent most of my adult life liv­ing in China, which has re­ally in­flu­enced my life. I wouldn’t be the per­son I am to­day without learn­ing Man­darin,” she said.

Mary Hoff­man, a teacher from Brook­lyn, the most pop­u­lous bor­ough of New York City, is equip­ping her­self with Chi­nese for a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with a grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese stu­dents and their par­ents in her neigh­bor­hood.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub- lished by US Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment in May last year, there were about 353,000 Chi­nese stu­dents in the US, ac­count­ing for 34 per­cent of the to­tal num­ber of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents in the coun­try.

“If you learn an­other lan­guage, it’s like that it gives you a slightly dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on things,” said Hoff­man.

Cur­rent fig­ures re­veal that more than 200,000 stu­dents are study­ing Man­darin in the US, with that num­ber set to in­crease. The US-China Strong Foun­da­tion said it plans to have 1 mil­lion K-12 pupils learn­ing Man­darin by 2020.

Chen Jin­guo im­mi­grated to the US in early 1990s had has taught Man­darin for nearly 20 years at the China In­sti­tute.

He said he has no­ticed an in­crease in the num­ber of US cit­i­zens learn­ing his na­tive lan­guage.

“There was an English fever in China when I left for the US. Now we are see­ing Chi­nese fever here,” he said. “More­over, many of my stu­dents study Chi­nese for jobs in Chi­nese ma­jor cities in­clud­ing Shang­hai, Shen­zhen and Bei­jing and that is some­thing I have never seen be­fore.”

When I chose Chi­nese, I just thought I don’t know much about China and this will be an op­por­tu­nity for me to learn some­thing.” Ais­ling McCaf­frey, who learned Chi­nese while at univer­sity

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