Plans to have 1 million pupils in Mandarin classes by 2020
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