As is the case in many trends and their ultimate outcomes, a strong perception of the "inevitable future" becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Put succinctly, the belief becomes the truth because our actions in response to that belief make it so. The anticipated domination of China in both the consumer and producer sectors has led to an increase in the number of students in industrialized nations who are learning to speak Mandarin. This is being encouraged by adding this language to the elective studies in high schools and colleges, and further fed by employment statisticians, economists and even professional and industry management recruiters who are preparing the next class of graduates for jobs where speaking Mandarin will give them the "edge."
It is also interesting that this phenomenon once applied to learning to speak Japanese in the late 1970s and in the 1980s in the United States, but to a smaller extent in terms of schools offering the elective and the number of students (as a percentage of total students) choosing to study.
The likely reasons that this newer wave of linguistic leaning is so much greater in proliferation and participation that the earlier one (i.e., learning to speak Japanese) are listed below:
1) The media are constantly speaking of China's inevitable rise to dominance, and the viralized potency of the new social media echoing this point did not exist during the "Japanese Period.";
2) There is less resistance to the idea than previously because their has been an increasing contingent of Asian-Americans and Asian-Europeans during the most recent 20-year span of time. This has had the secondary effect of infusing Chinese culture (and partially-Chinese offspring) into these countries with far more pervasive immigration than ever in history;
3) Unemployment is so intimidatingly high in the Western countries, that learning Mandarin is seen as a survival skill as well as a competitive advantage in accessing employment at the increased number of large firms which are multinationals and internationals. The increase in the number of major firms which are multicultural is simply the result of an increasingly globalized economy brought about through improved efficiencies in communications technology, an ever-increasing number of multi-national co-ventures;
4) University tuition has become so expensive (relative to the rise in cost of many other traditional family staples), that colleges and universities are trying to cater to the increasing market for students who want to be International Business majors. Colleges need tuition revenues from enrolled and matriculating students in order to survive in a very "dry" economy;
5) Referring back to point number 1), above, even articles like this one, with its catchy title (I am rather proud of it), are being amplified and reverberated throughout cyberspace by social media. In merely writing this article, I am contributing an increment of increased momentum and credibility to this Mandarin Madness.
An excerpt from an article which discusses this new international trendency (not a misspelling, but a Lingovation). It further validates the emerging interest in the perceived opportunities in the business of Planetary Geographical Arbitrage as it applies to both education and employment.
Remember this: "We shape the future by our reactions to anticipated visions of the future."
Douglas E Castle
Learning Mandarin gains momentum in European, US classrooms
Gains in China's economic standing also have brought about a greater desire for children in the United States and Europe to speak Mandarin, which is supplanting Spanish and German as the second tongue of choice in some schools. More than 3% of American elementary schools offer the language, a large increase considering less than 1% did during the 1990s. "One way or another, China is the future," said Olaf Mertens, a school headmaster in Belgium. The Globe and Mail (Toronto)/Financial Times (17 Oct.)