The importance of Mandarin Chinese in modern business

June 4, 2014 by totalityservices

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The British are known for many things – tea, scones, roast dinners and a passion for sarcasm, to name just a few of our great loves. However, when it comes to modern foreign languages, it would be fair to say that, as a nation, we are notoriously bad at them. We are the nation of talk-louder-and-pointers who are perhaps far less likely to go on holiday equipped with a phrasebook because ‘everybody knows English’. Indeed, a survey by the AA recently found that as many as one in nine Brits believe everyone speaks their mother tongue when they take holidays abroad. Quite a few Brits would be startled at the question of the importance of Mandarin Chinese in modern business.

With the world more connected than it has ever been in the past as a result of improvements in technology and increasingly accessible international travel, business – for one – has gone global. Accordingly, the ability to speak another language and appreciate other cultures is hugely beneficial when it comes to the working world.

But which languages are the most beneficial? For years, school children have traditionally been taught the more widely spoken European languages. However, one trend that is starting to gain traction is the take-up of other languages, such as Arabic, Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. Why? Because these are increasingly becoming the languages that are most valuable to modern business.

So what benefits does being able to speak Mandarin Chinese offer in commercial circles? Why are Chinese translators and interpreters so in demand?

Mandarin Chinese is spoken by the most people

Contrary to popular belief, Mandarin Chinese is actually spoken by the greatest number of people in the world. According to statistics reported by the British Council, there are approximately 848 million Mandarin Chinese speakers, followed by 406 million for Spanish, 335 million for English and 260 million for Hindi. Arabic (all varieties), Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese and Javanese follow in fifth to tenth place, respectively. As such a major global language – and incidentally an official tongue of the United Nations and the International Criminal Court – it is unsurprising it should be so commercially significant.

China is an economically important and high-growth market

China is the world’s second largest economy, behind the US and in front of Japan. Accordingly, this is the sort of climate in which businesses – and business minds – can survive and thrive. While economies in the west may be slowly but steadily consolidating their recovery from recession, the grass is arguably extremely green when you travel further east.

Following on from the strength of its economy, the nation also has extremely promising prospects in terms of growth, meaning that those who are able to speak Mandarin Chinese will have the ability to do business fluidly and fluently with a potentially very profitable part of the world.

Companies rate Mandarin Chinese as ‘useful’

Just as those wishing to be doctors might study for a medical degree or lawyers will spend months on legal courses, it follows that bright business minds should seek to study those subjects deemed to be of value by potential future employees. The Confederation of British Industry’s 2013 Education Skills Survey found that seven in ten respondents valued language skills, with 28 per cent deeming Mandarin Chinese to be “useful” to their organisation.

China is a vital export market

In the aforementioned British Council report entitled Languages for the Future, the organisation goes on to highlight how not only is China a globally important economy, but it is also valuable for the UK’s export market. More specifically, Mandarin and other Chinese languages rank in fourth place – behind German, Dutch and French – in terms of their importance to UK exports. In 2012, the US was the UK’s top export market, but of course language is not a barrier when it comes to trading with the states.

There are gaps in our education system

Finally, Mandarin Chinese is important to modern business because, quite simply, there aren’t enough youngsters studying it at the moment and so the UK potentially faces something of a skills crisis in this department.

While it would not be appropriate to apportion the blame entirely on shortcomings in the UK’s primary and secondary education systems, Professor Katrin Kohl explains in the Guardian how teaching needs to make languages more relevant to those learning them. According to the vice-chair of the faculty of modern languages at the University of Oxford, it is no longer enough to teach youngsters how to say how many brothers and sisters they have or how to give directions to the post office.

Even though the statistics suggest Mandarin Chinese learning is gaining traction in schools, there are not yet enough youngsters studying it, given how many doors it could open for them further down the line.

Overall, the British Council ranks Mandarin Chinese as fourth in a list of languages “which have the potential to add most value to the UK’s strategic interests”. This is despite the fact that, according to a YouGov survey, just one per cent of the UK adult population were found to be able to speak it well enough to hold a conversation.

Will the education system wake up to this reality and will the statistics for Mandarin Chinese learners and speakers reflect the importance of this language before too long? Only time will tell.

Here at Rosetta Translation, you are in any case in safe hands with any Chinese translation needs that you may have. Indeed, thanks to our subsidiary Rosetta Translation Shanghai, , the earliest foreign-owned translation agency in Shanghai, we are considered one of the foremost experts in high-quality Chinese language services.

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