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The Economist says studying Chinese is in decline in the U.K.

September 10, 2020

Learning languages
Why studying Chinese is in decline

Mandarin is out of fashionAugust 29, 2020

The article is behind a paywall, so the link below might not work for most folks. The two most salient points are below. Which makes me curious — have your feelings about Mandarin immersion changed in the past few years? Feel free to post a comment.

Many independent schools followed the fashion: 24% of them offer Mandarin, compared with 4.4% in state schools. But finding a school that offers Mandarin is no longer the priority it was for parents three years ago, says Ralph Lucas, editor in chief of The Good Schools Guide. Part of the reason is that “the perception of China as a place where you would want your child to make a career has taken a severe knock”. Learning Mandarin to a useful level is difficult, and China “doesn’t seem like the big golden opportunity it was before”. Recent events, such as the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, further “take the gloss off” the idea of investing in a Chinese education.

and this:

Advocates of learning Mandarin say that a more complex geopolitical situation is exactly why children should be practising their tones. But those who have invested the hours (and the cash) don’t always reap the rewards. “The only real advantage of me speaking Chinese was having a much better understanding of how difficult it was for my Chinese colleagues to operate in English,” says Alex Wilson, who worked in public relations in Beijing and Shanghai. Graduates from the School of Oriental and African Studies can expect to be earning £27,000 five years after graduating if they studied Chinese, or £38,000 if they studied economics. Yun Zhen is studying for a Masters in Education at the University of Reading and hopes to be a Mandarin teacher. But “honestly, I don’t see many opportunities,” she says. Now she’s looking for teaching experience in “any subject”.

The difficulty of learning Mandarin will always attract academic kids and pushy parents. Mr John of Hatching Dragons notes that parents increasingly “see bilingual immersion for its cognitive benefits. For them, Chinese is (almost) secondary to the linguistic input”. The idea that Mandarin itself is a hot ticket is fading. Better to train the children in a computer-programming language. “Compared to how much more employable you can make yourself by learning something like Python, which you can learn in a few months,” according to Mr Wilson, “Mandarin seems like an inefficient use of resources.”

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