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Should we be ditching French for Mandarin?

August 5th, 2009 by Emily

For years French has been the most popular foreign language taught in schools. French tutors have also proved exceptionally popular, and not just amongst the school-age population. Older people looking to work or retire abroad are also keen to employ a tutor.

France is our nearest truly foreign neighbour and in times past the two countries' languages were heavily intertwined. However, in terms of global usage, French is well below Mandarin Chinese, English and Hindustani. So does it deserve its pole position in the language curriculum?

As the world battles with recession, China is one of the few economies still growing and it is an increasingly important figure on the world stage. As it shares no characteristics with English, Mandarin Chinese is a notoriously difficult language to learn and students may benefit from being taught at a young age, while still in the critical acquisition period or retaining some vestige of that sponge-like ability.

Statistically, Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, but do statistics reflect the utility of a language? Although one of the six official UN languages, Chinese is largely confined to one exceptionally big and heavily populated country. It is not used as a lingua franca in the same way as French or English.

Perhaps we should be considering more difficult languages on the curriculum while students are young enough to pick them up with ease. It's also possible the UK business community will begin to increase its demand for Mandarin tuition as its ties with China grow stronger. As a tutor, do you find there is much demand for 'harder' language teaching and do you think the situation will change in the months and years to come?

Categories: French, Mandarin