Mandarin Language Students

20 May

This here is brief account of what it means to be a mandarin language student in China.

Learning Mandarin, as I have argued in quite a few articles on this page, is much less about studying the language than it is about actually speaking Chinese. As Mandarin is pretty much confined to China in way that English, for example, is not confined to countries where it is the mother tongue, there is only one place to really learn the language. For people that are keen to be apart of what is widely consider as the greatest paradigm shift of our time, the rise of China as en economic and political super-power, there is therefore a magnetic pull towards The Middle Kingdom on two accounts. The first reason is of course that China is China and that China is the word. The second is that China is the only place you can learn to communicate with Chinese people on their own terms.

In the last 20 years the amount of students dedicated to Mandarin has gone from somewhere much closer to 0, to a full 100 million today. That is impressive growth. A trend that is only rivaled, as far as I know, by the pace of China’s economic growth (which roughly doubles the size of the economy every 7 years). Which can probably be attributed as being the main cause of the former. This has created a situation where the best and the brightest minds of the current student generation are more and more attracted to not only the Mandarin language, but also China as place to learn it, and that makes the top language schools in China a very exiting place to work.

The people that I consider to be the best and the brightest is not the same as the group of recent graduates selected for the final interview for Goldman and Sachs (thought I am sure that those people are very nice and clever to). The defining characteristic of an interesting person to have a conversation with is for me someone who is primarily motivated by the urge to explore. There are very few uncharted jungles left on earth, so until we develop warp speed exploration is about people and less so about defoliating ancient pyramids. The explorer of the modern age is therefore a humanist. Someone interested in other people. In how other people interact. In how to find out ways for making life better for earthlings by finding new ways we can cooperate. This may sound to you like grade-A cheese but there really is something special about western people in China.

The proportion of people with a really cool idea that they are super keen to talk about is simply astounding. Everywhere I go I seem to bump into a true Indiana Jones of the 21st century. I live with a pretty good cross section of the people that I meet. There is one student that is still learning Mandarin. My girlfriend, whom I also live with, is a fairly successful videographer with a taste for trying to combine western ideas with Chinese ideas regarding film. The fourth housemate is the CEO of his very own start up company that helps Chinese scientist communicate their ideas in a language that fits with western rhetoric and vice versa. The other day I met a 17-year-old intern who spoke a fair bit of Mandarin that was setting of into the heartlands of Chinese manufacturing to find his Swedish employer a cheaper supplier of chicken wire. My best friend’s ex girlfriend is also the sole owner and CEO of her very own start up company with 5 employees. She sells Chinese art abroad. She is 28 years old. To me, this is amazing.

Of course moving to China is not a recipe for success but it seems to me that China really has some very fertile ground where idea seeds tend to grow at alarming rates. Even if you are not successful in creating your own business, which to be fair, is pretty tough, you are likely to get some incredible ideas of your own by just talking to people. To me, the best reason to learn Mandarin in China is my peers.

Rui Ming works for a Mandarin Language School in China that is a great option for those that want to learn mandarin, the lingua franca of the growing economic powerhouse. See the program overview page for more information about learning Mandarin in China.

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