Studying Mandarin – A Short History Lesson

20 May

Why is it that Chinese Mandarin is on the rise as a language that people want to study?

Learning Mandarin in the truly ancient Middle Kingdom is today more popular than it has ever been in China’s 4000 years of history. During its many centuries China has often eclipsed other nations in many aspects. During the Tang dynasty China was at its classical pinnacle. Fantastic works of architecture and arts remain to tell the tale of an enlightened, advanced and powerful heritage. But the world then is different from the world today. At the dawn of globalization, when first the English set out to map the earth a fundamental new aspect to humanity was realized. Interconnectedness was for the most part of 300 years a polarized curse and blessing for those that were exploring and those that got explored. China was already in cultural decline when Europe reached is shores and the great nation state became another example of what can happen when people with really good guns meet people without. Sid Meier quoted a pretty good proverb once that goes “never bring a knife to gunfight”. Ian M. Banks named a novel after a sociological / anthropological concept know as excession; when one civilization meets another that has reached a few rungs higher on the technological ladder. The results are never a treat.

But with the rewards that came from colonial prowess for Europe a new type of light began to grow there. After the horrors of the Second World war Europe started to feel pretty bad about its exploits. This, coupled with the fact that the war had weakened them beyond the ability to control the rest of our little planet, led to the old colonial empires giving up on their quest for taking 10 giving 1 and receiving 2, at just about every turn they could take. The war had also brought a new spirit of cooperation. Colonialism gave way to globalization, which for all its flaws is a much better force of interconnectedness than its predecessor ever was. The war also changed many other things, perhaps the foremost being the beginning of the Cold War. People are slow to learn from mistake and the subsequent 40 years of Cold War was little better for many poor parts of the world than the previous 300 had been (Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Most of Africa etc. etc.) and even at the end of that war, lots of people were still getting the short end of most sticks.

What makes the world today different from the days of yore, both during the Tang dynasty and The Western Dynasty is this: the world is interconnected today and the west is now in permanent relative decline. It, life, will get better in the western world, or rather it will continue to get better. But the rate at which emerging markets are finally catching up will never have been faster than during the coming roaring 20’s. The economic crisis has left Europe and god knows the one remaining superpower The United States of America looking very weak and tired. The word of the year on Wall Street is emerging markets, and everyone knows to whom the crown of these countries goes. China, The Middle Kingdom, The Awakening / Awakened Dragon that is stirring in the East. What the ultimate tally of good versus evil is going to be is in the words of Ian M. Banks up to future historian to say.

What is clear for us living today is this: China is one the rise. China accounted for 25% of global growth in 2010. China is hungry. China wants what the west has. The west wants what China is making. When China’s 1.2 billion people are half as rich as Americans the Chinese economy will be more than 2 times as large as the U.S of A – this will happened within 20 years. The scale measuring the weight of the west and the east will begin the process of reaching equilibrium in the coming decade. With it the importance and the benefits of proficiency in both Mandarin and English will also rise. Fin.

Rui Ming works for a Mandarin Language School in China that is a great option for those that want to study mandarin. See the program overview page for more information about studying Mandarin in China.


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