Friday, August 24, 2007

Say what?

Chinese children must learn Mandarin, joining 40 million around the world who are studying to do the same.

I haven’t heard one economist say that China won’t soon be the new #1 economic power in the world. But it seems the US will likely keep its crown for language. Within China itself 175 million people formally study English, and by 2010 that number will grow to two billion people worldwide.

English is de rigueur to succeed in big business. Newsweek reports on a recent survey where 91 percent of multinational employees in Latin America, Europe and Asia believed English was "critical" or "important" to their current positions. Just two years ago McKinsey found that fewer than one out of ten college graduates in China were suitable for employment at multinationals primarily because they didn’t speak English.

Here are the global rankings: Mandarin and English tie for the #1 spoken language in the world, each with 1.1 billion, although some estimates which no doubt include immigrant NYC taxi drivers put the number of English speakers as high as 1.8 billion.

With all the outsourcing in the news it’s funny we don’t hear more about India, where Hindi is spoken by nearly 1 billion people. Rounding out the top ten spoken languages, including those spoken as a second language, are French and Spanish each with 500 million, Arabic with 320 million, Russian with 255 million, and then Portuguese, Bengali, German, and Japanese.

I just hope those Chinese kids are watching their language.

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