Over 70 countries have officially incorporated the Mandarin language into their national education systems, China’s education ministry said this week.
The United Kingdom, Australia, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and South Africa are among the nations teaching Mandarin in their government-run schools, China’s Vice Minister of Education, Tian Xuejun, said Monday, the state-run China Global Television Network (CGTN) reported Wednesday.
“So far, over 4,000 colleges across the globe have set up Chinese language [Mandarin] courses in their curriculum. It’s estimated that 25 million people are learning Chinese now and over 200 million have learned Chinese globally,” Tian said at the opening ceremony of the International Chinese Language Education Week 2020.
China is home to hundreds of languages — Mandarin, Cantonese, Mongol, Tibetan, and Uyghur most predominantly — but the state considers Mandarin its official language. It refers to Mandarin as “Chinese” and has launched campaigns to eradicate other languages in minority regions.
The global demand for learning Mandarin — one of the six official languages of the U.N. — has increased in recent years, with the majority of overseas Mandarin-language learners residing in Southeast Asia.
More than 30 million Chinese nationals live in Southeast Asia. The demographic accounts for roughly six percent of the region’s population, laying a solid foundation for Mandarin-language education in the area, according to Wu Yinghui, a professor at Beijing Language and Culture University quoted in state media.
“As the cultural and economic ties between China and Southeast Asia deepen further, local people’s interest in learning Chinese has also increased,” Wu said, according to CGTN.
While Mandarin remains less widely taught in the U.S. than other traditional foreign languages — such as Spanish, French, and German — it has grown increasingly popular among American language students in recent years.
A 2017 survey by American Councils for International Education (ACIE) found that approximately 20 percent of U.S. students, ranging from kindergarten to grade 12, were enrolled in foreign language courses.
As many as 227,086 students were enrolled in Mandarin language courses according to the survey, which ranked Mandarin as the fourth most widely taught foreign language in the U.S. education system at the time.
“Dr. Dan Davidson, president of ACIE who implemented the survey, told Xinhua [China’s state news agency] that the soaring popularity of Chinese [Mandarin] language learning across the U.S. is ‘remarkable’ — one of the most interesting findings of the survey,” CGTN recalled.
“[E]xperts say Chinese [Mandarin]-speaking talent is now in great demand in countries that have joined the Belt and Road Initiative, especially in Southeast Asian and African countries where Confucius Institutes have attracted many young people by integrating Chinese learning with e-commerce, agricultural and IT technologies,” the Chinese state news outlet added.
“So far, according to official data, there are 541 Confucius Institutes and 1,170 Confucius classrooms in 162 countries and regions. The institutes are open to the general public, promoting Chinese language and culture exchange with other countries,” CGTN said.
Over 60 universities and about 500 primary and secondary schools in the U.S. host Confucius Institutes programs through partnerships with an affiliate of China’s Ministry of Education.
“Patterned after the British Council and Alliance Francaise, the Confucius Institutes are unique in that they set up operations directly on U.S. campuses and schools, drawing mounting scrutiny from U.S. officials amid increased tensions with China,” the Associated Press (AP) noted in October.
“In letters to universities and state education officials, the [U.S.] State Department and Education Department said the program gives China’s ruling Communist Party a foothold on U.S. soil and threatens free speech. Schools are being advised to examine the program’s activities and ‘take action to safeguard your educational environments’,” AP reported at the time.
The U.S. state department has officially designated China’s state-run Confucius Institutes as foreign missions in the U.S.
“I think that everyone’s coming to see the risk associated with them and the recruitment of spies and collaborators inside of those institutions. I think these institutions can see that. And I’m hopeful we will get them all closed out before the end of this year,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said of the Confucius Institutes’ presence within American schools in September.China Celebrates over 70 Countries Introducing Mandarin in Schools — Breitbart News