I have to learn to Master the Chinese language!

In china business, usa by Michael Michelini10 Comments

Damnnit Americans, why aren’t you learning Chinese? My friend Abiy just sent me this newsweek article Americans still aren’t studying Chinese in school?

I like this paragraph in the middle of the article:

But the sad fact is that Americans are not learning Mandarin, the main tongue spoken in mainland China, in droves. Just take a look at the numbers. According to the Center for Applied Linguistics, in 2008 only 4 percent of middle and high schools that offer foreign-language instruction included Mandarin. That’s up from 1 percent in 1997. While that initially seems like respectable growth, the same survey reveals that 13 percent of schools still offer Latin and a full 10-fold more schools offer French than Mandarin. How is it that one a dead language and the other a language primarily used to impress your dinner companion can trounce one spoken by 1.3 billion natives and many millions more expats and immigrants abroad?

I’m a little embarassed myself, I’ve been in China since late 2007 and still do not have a good grip on the language…..I can come up with excuses and reasoning (normally I say because i’m focusing on business, and mainly selling to english speaking customers – and can’t dedicate time / money / resources to going to classes) but the fact is, I have to face facts and LEARN IT.

But this is another REALITY check – another reason I don’t have to force myself to learn Chinese in China is because SO MANY CHINESE HAVE LEARNED ENGLISH. At least when we are talking about the major cities, the majority of younger people speak english. They grow up learning it in their schools!!!!!!!!!!

So…..think about that……………

The majority of the young population in China will be speaking English fairly fluently in the coming decades……


The majority of the American population still won’t speak Chinese…..

What does this mean? Sure, there will be even more English speaking people around the globe, right. And the “world will be flat”, and maybe the world language and business language will still be English…….but…

more and more rich people are CHINESE. And they love it when they can speak Chinese to a foreigner. It shows a sign of respect to them, as learning their language, you almost also have to learn about their culture…..

I am mostly upset at myself….I should have applied myself more to learn Chinese. When I was first in China, I started having Melissa tutor me for an hour a day between working. Then as it got busier with work, we re-allocated that time to working……

I then tried selling bar products in China and I got nervous, and I realized I needed to rely on my staff completely…for the whole sales process….plus this wasn’t the right product line for China then (back in 2008) and even now still!

grrrrrr…..upset at myself.

But its on my list for sure, improve my Chinese. Maybe living deeper in a factory city will be better.

Put this on my 2011 New Years Resolution List.

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  1. “another reason I don’t have to force myself to learn Chinese in China is because SO MANY CHINESE HAVE LEARNED ENGLISH.”
    That’s a good reason! haha!

    1. Author

      thanks Water! yea….well that was how I got by in China for 3 years…

      but i wanna go deeper!! Dongguan in Jan!

  2. Right, we love it when you can speak Chinese! It’s a bonus though…as soon as you feel comfortable with the language you choose to communicate, it’s fine.

    To think more deeply, it’s more than just learning a language as language always reflects the culture. And the kind of connection you build up with them!

    Michael I wish you all the best! No pressure and happy learning! =]

    1. Author

      thanks Emily,

      appreciate that you say ” no pressure” BUT I NEED PRESSURE
      because I never apply pressure to learning Chinese, I will never learn it.

      i have to want to, and I have to put pressure on it. thats why school is good, because it pressures us to prepare for an exam….

  3. haha…so cute…hope u will improve ur Chinese soon…

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  5. Well,sure more and more youngster can speak or use English better,and sure they learn it from school.even we were 10-years old.but what do we learn really?the language or the culture?nothing.
    last year i told a boy to learn English,i found he even don’t know how to read a word but he must recite it.the same as me when i was a kid.
    so i think you can learn Chinese,but the way is important,not only the language,but also our culture.:)

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