Chinese – the language the whole world wants to learn
Thursday 08 September 2011
There's been some noise this week in the southern Pakistani province of Sindh following the announcement that from 2013, learning standard Chinese will become compulsory for all students from sixth grade onwards.
There are those who say the move will erode Pakistani culture and those who say it simply makes sense as the world's most populous nation sits right on Sindh's doorstep.
But what the issue does to the rest of the world is - once again - highlight just how wide the use of the Chinese language is fast becoming.
With more than 1, 372 billion Chinese (or Mandarin) speakers in the world, it is the planet's most-used language, in front of English (1,302 billion). More and more, it is also becoming the language of the internet.
According to the Internet World Stats, there were by the end of 2010, an estimated 444.9 million people using Chinese on the internet, second only to English and its web community of 536.6 million.
And those two languages are a long way ahead of the rest of the top five internet languages on the planet - Spanish (153.3 million), Japanese (99.1 million) and Portuguese (82.5 million).
The total number of Chinese-speaking internet users has surged an incredible 1,478.7 percent over the past 11 years, according to IWS, which charts "internet usage, population statistics, travel statistics and internet market research data for over 233 individual countries and world regions."
The main reason the world is turning en masse to the Chinese language comes from pure economics. In January this year China took over from Japan as the world's second largest economy - and estimations are that it will topple the United States from its lofty perch as the biggest economy in the world by 2020.
So the people in Sindh can take some heart from the fact that they are not alone - not by a long shot.
The Swedish education minister in July announced that all primary schools in the country would offer Chinese within a decade, while in America the number of public and private schools offering the language to its students has risen to 1,600 from 300 in a decade, according to government estimations.
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