Someone on Quora Français recently asked me, “why should I learn Chinese?”
(This post was originally written in French for Quora. Lisez son original en français)
My opinion? Right now, much of the world considers learning English to be their gateway to the rest of the world: to global business, to the tourism industry, even to the future. To many, speaking English means access to something bigger and more competitive than the access provided by one nation or one culture.
However, if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, are an early adopter, or in any way want to have access to another culture that has already demonstrated an incredible capacity for innovation, modernization, and globalization…you might want to consider learning Chinese.
As only one example of China’s modernization and innovation, you might have already heard that mobile payments (usually through Wechat’s wallet system) are the norm now even for streetside bun vendors.
According to a few apocryphal tales, even panhandlers accept WePay!
Eschewing Facebook and Instagram, Chinese netizens are flocking to social media platforms like Weibo and Wechat in numbers that may soon outpace most American platforms…at an estimated 1 billion users, WeChat is currently tied with Instagram. Xiao Hong Shu, TikTok, and Weibo may not be far behind. Want to get the most out of these platforms, put your finger on the pulse of one billion people?
You had better learn Chinese.
Not yet convinced? Powering this modernization are population numbers that are so wild, they can be hard to comprehend. Here are just a few examples to make this easier to understand, borrowed from the excellent “One Hour China” by Jeffrey Towson:
Hundreds of millions of Chinese have already flooded from the countryside into the city. 18.5 million more join the cities every year: the equivalent of adding the entire population of the Netherlands every year.
There are now 160 Chinese cities that have over 1 million people (in comparison, all of Europe has 35).
By 2025, this is expected to increase to 220.
Those city dwellers are extremely internet and technology savvy, have more and more spending power, and have needs to be met by savvy entrepreneurs: public transportation, cars, services, food.
Chinese consumer spending will triple by 2020. It is projected to rise from $2.03 trillion in 2010 to $6.18 trillion annually in 2020.
China will be the top global luxury market at $245 billion.
Convinced yet? Or are you still overwhelmed by the idea of trying to learn a tonal language that uses characters instead of an alphabet? Well, I’m not going to lie, learning to read and write in Chinese is a serious investment. However, learning to speak the language is surprisingly not that difficult. Tones may come to you more quickly than you’d expect (there are only four of them, after all) and Chinese grammar is notoriously simple: no conjugations whatsoever. If you want to know more, check out my Quora post on this topic.
Onboard yet? If so, you can check out my list of resources for learning Chinese here.
Have you tried to learn Chinese yet? How has it changed your life? Let me know in the comments! And 加油！