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Is It Actually Helpful to Start Learning Chinese Early?

Jun. 8, 2021

“Chinese fever” is “spreading” all over the world. It’s all the rage to learn the language with more than 1.3 billion native speakers, but of course it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers—you need to spend time, time, and more time to learn. Still, even those parents who are considering having their children start early might be wondering: is it worth starting learning Chinese from such a young age?

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1. There are more and more reasons to know Chinese

The benefits of learning Chinese are fairly obvious: as China, and the world as a whole, develops and countries grow closer together, Chinese as a language has grown in popularity and importance, and it has come to be used more and more frequently. By being able to speak fluent Chinese you can communicate with Chinese speakers face to face, and through learning the language you will have more unique opportunities than you otherwise would. The ability to express oneself in another language should not be underestimated for its contribution to thinking about ideas, perspectives and problems in different ways, too.

According to the statistics of the Department of Language and Information Management of the Ministry of Education, by the end of 2020 more than 180 countries and regions around the world carried out Chinese education, with more than 70 countries incorporating Chinese into their national education system and upwards of 20 million foreign students learning Chinese. In 2021, Chinese officially become an official language of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

It’s no exaggeration to say that online Chinese education is booming.

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2. Chinese learning boosts individual growth and opens up possibilities

Unlike in years past, it is becoming more and more realistic that in order to be taken seriously when being in China as a working professional, business entrepreneur, or tourist Chinese language will be a must. We’re not even talking about great opportunities that will be available if you speak great Chinese; for many, Chinese language proficiency will be a minimum requirement!

Luckily, there is infrastructure and resources growing to meet demand and demonstration of proficiency. For example, a Chinese classics conference was held  in Hong Kong last year, Mandarin training classes for primary and secondary school teachers are given in many institutions, and language and cultural exchange summer camps for middle school students are organized in countries around the world. Even with the pandemic the official proficiency examinations innovated to combine online and offline options to ensure that people could continue in their Chinese learning journey.

Now more and more Americans are heading to work or study in China, or simply to go to the country, establish a life for themselves, and figure it out from there. Regardless of their reason for seeking out time in China, more and more people are learning and using Chinese, a skillset that translates to higher job satisfaction and greater earning potentials.

Such earning potentials actually come on both sides of the Sino-American relationship; some people find opportunities with U.S. enterprises who operate in China, while others act as liaisons for Chinese companies looking to have a presence in the U.S.

That said…

Any Chinese speaker who began learning Chinese as an adult will tell you: it is difficult for adults to learn Mandarin from scratch, and that’s why we say: it’s never too early to start learning Chinese!

3. Children acquire language, they don’t just “learn” it!

In a person’s life, language acquisition ability is completed in his childhood (notice we said “acquisition”, not “learning”). Not only do children pick up language in a different way than one does in a language class, but they also have more energy to understand the culture and new world around them, as well as more curiosity. In fact, in the right environment and with the right guidance, picking up Chinese almost becomes a bonus for children. Recognizing this, countless business tycoons, political power figures, even royal family members have all had their children learn Chinese from a young age.

The BBC even reported recently on an online assessment taken by nearly 670,000 people that the best time to master a language fluently, such as grammar, is before the age of 10. As we have long known, the data show that there is even a “critical period window” for language learning, which starts at the age of 10 and ends at the age of 17 or 18.

This has been reflected in the rush in recent years in the UK, the United States, and other countries as students flock to learn Chinese. We’ve been telling everyone we can take advantage of all the resources and knowledge they can find, and sieze the opportunity for their children to learn more about the world in ways they’ve never considered before!

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