Emerging Languages Series:

Learning Mandarin for Your Job

China - Learn mandarinFrom the late 2000s to the present, there has been a surge in interest in learning Mandarin. Many people have believed in China’s economic dream of becoming a prosperous and open country for the longest time. China is wealthy today, but it is most definitely not open.

Everyone talked about China’s rapid growth and how we all needed to get on board before the train left the station. In essence, everyone desired the first-mover advantage of entering China first. There was a sense among businesses, academics, athletes, and individuals that you would be missing out if you didn’t break into the Chinese market. Look below at China’s GDP from 1969 to 2018; it’s incredible!

Gross Domestic Product-GDP

Being a Mandarin speaker will not guarantee you employment.

It’s a sizable market, and there must be opportunities for international Mandarin speakers there, correct? You’re both correct and incorrect. If you’re moving to a country where Mandarin is spoken, you’d expect to gain an advantage by speaking the language. You have an advantage over other members of the international workforce who cannot communicate in Mandarin.  It would help if you considered what would set you apart from the crowd. If your ability to share in the language of every other local person is what distinguishes you, you are not truly unique. 

Learning Mandarin is worthwhile if you intend to live in a country that speaks the language. You can interact with people more effectively, better understand the local culture and society, and most importantly, read a menu and avoid ordering something you didn’t want. However, having Mandarin as a means of differentiation makes little sense. Speaking the local language of the country in which you live is not a way to distinguish yourself; it is a way to integrate.

Know that you are in it for the long haul.

Think again if you expected to quickly pick up Mandarin through Duolingo or even a formal educational institution. To put it another way, learning Mandarin requires approximately 2,200 hours of classroom study for a native English speaker. Additionally, it would help to double that figure to account for time spent studying at home, writing characters, memorizing them, practicing your tones, speaking out loud, listening to audiotapes, and reading. Thus, 4,400 hours is the minimum amount of time you should consider sufficient. That amount of time is equivalent to studying 24 hours a day for 183 consecutive days until you achieve proficiency in Mandarin. ELAM’s LAD Intense program will get you started on this language learning journey!

Tourists in china If you’ve ever attempted to learn a language, you know that you cannot cram it. You can enroll in the most intensive classes available, spend 2-3 years attending 5-hour classes daily, and still find that your Mandarin is not at a level considered helpful for a business meeting. 

In short, if you intend to learn Mandarin quickly to improve the appearance of your CV/Resume, reconsider. It’s a lengthy process, and you should only undertake it if you genuinely desire to fit in and better understand the community in which you live. But if you want to enrich your dealings with clients, then learning the rudiments of this language can go a long way! Contact us for more information on our virtual language learning programs!

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