Will Chinese become the world’s most important language?

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What you might already know:

  • “China is one of the world’s oldest and richest continuous cultures, over 5000 years old
  • China is the most populous nation in the world, with 1.28 billion people
  • One fifth of the planet speaks Chinese. Mandarin Chinese is the mother tongue of over 873 million people, making it the most widely spoken first language in the world
  • In addition to the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is also spoken in the important and influential Chinese communities of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, and Mongolia
  • China is the second largest economy in the world
  • China is one of largest trading partners of the United States
  • Many US companies do business in China and have long-term investments there” (http://www.bu.edu/mlcl/home/why-study-chinese/)

The study of the Chinese language is increasing in the United States and around the world. In 2009, about 60,000 American college students were studying Chinese. That is three times as many as in 1990. A small but growing number of American parents are even sending their children to bilingual Chinese immersion schools. However, Chinese is a more difficult language to learn. The U.S. Foreign Service Institute estimates it would take a native English speaker 2,200 hours to reach professional fluency in Chinese. That is four times longer than it would take to reach the same level in Dutch, French, or Spanish. While Chinese grammar is much simpler, Chinese has a tone and writing system that is more difficult for adult learners to master (Brock, 2014; http://www.geili.us/news/?1391.html).

There are also some interesting facts that Chinese has a relatively uncomplicated grammar. Unlike French, German or English, Chinese has no verb conjugation and no noun declension. For example, in English there are different verb forms like “see/saw/seen,” all you need to do in Chinese is just to remember one word: kan. Another example for singular and plural forms: “cat” and “cats,” in Chinese there is only one form: mao. (Chinese conveys these distinctions of tense and number in other ways, of course.) The basic word order of Chinese is subject – verb – object, exactly as in English. A large number of the key terms of Mandarin Chinese (such as the terms for state, health, science, party, inflation, and even literature) have been formed as translations of English concepts (http://www.bu.edu/mlcl/home/why-study-chinese/).

Nowadays China is playing a more and more important role in global political and economic systems. It has become a huge market, and business leaders are looking for people who can speak more than one language, giving their preference to those who speak Chinese and operate successfully in a Chinese cultural context. In many countries Chinese has become a popular language, for instance in Japan, Chinese is now the most taught foreign language after English; in Britain the first English-Chinese bilingual primary school was opened last year. If in recent decades most children were taught French, Spanish and German, in another 10 or 20 years it could well be Chinese that tops the language list.


Brock, A. (2014). Will Chinese replace English as the international language? Retrieved from: http://www.geili.us/news/?1391.html

Why study Chinese. Retrieved from: http://www.bu.edu/mlcl/home/why-study-chinese/

2 thoughts on “Will Chinese become the world’s most important language?

  1. This is an interesting question. Doubtless, Chinese has some prerequisites to grow and expand as a global language. This can happen simply because the Chinese population is the largest in the world, and it is an important language in business. However, I do not believe that Chinese can replace English in the world arena; at least in the near future it will not. The main reason for that is that Chinese is much more difficult to learn than English. Still, knowing Chinese would definitely be helpful for career purposes, or just to broaden one’s horizon.


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