Today’s Linguistic Battle: English vs. Mandarin

When the concept of global currency arises in most circles, people tend to think first of monetary currency. However, one of the most important values on the global stage, whether it is related to business, politics, and culture, is that of language currency.

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For decades now, English has held sway as THE world language of trade, commerce, business, and even politics. But in recent years China has propelled itself forward as a major power, making Mandarin a heavyweight contender as a global, must-know tongue. It is the rivalry of our time and perhaps one of the greatest linguistic battles to ever take place, so as economic prominence continues to affect the languages we speak, will English or Mandarin own the world stage as the most important language on the globe?

According to statistics, there are around 1.2 billion English speakers in the world. And with 955 million Mandarin speakers, Chinese easily takes the slot as the second most spoken language. However, when narrowing down the number of native speakers for each tongue, English drops to an astoundingly low 350 million, implying that 850 million speak it as a second language, while Mandarin moves to the number one slot with 950 million native speakers. But instead of placing Mandarin as the current front-running language, these numbers point more to the global pervasiveness of English. Mandarin has such a high number of native speakers because it is a tongue mainly limited to China, while English has spread to encompass nations from Asia to Europe and beyond.

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Despite this, it is still important to understand the powerhouse that China is today. In 2014, China rose to prominence as the biggest economy in the world, shifting the U.S. into second place. And although the use of Mandarin may be largely isolated to China, this nation demands that those doing business within the country utilize Mandarin as a more necessary tool than English.

The demand for Chinese classes in countries like the UK and the US is perhaps one of the greatest hallmarks of how seriously the West is taking Mandarin as a new universal tongue. In fact, in recent years the number of U.S. students learning Mandarin Chinese has tripled. The rise in those interested in learning it has indeed shown a global commitment to making Mandarin a more widely used tongue.

But can Mandarin’s supremacy last? Russian was popular amongst Americans during the Cold War, as was Arabic in the aftermath of 9/11, so it is very possible to assume that this current Mandarin fad will fade. Although experts point to Chinese as a vital language – especially for those who want to be on the forefront of innovation and who want to do business in China – most don’t believe Mandarin Chinese will overtake English as the universal language, at least not anytime soon.

The reasons for this point back to the isolation of Mandarin vs. the widespread use of English. Currently, learning Mandarin is useful for those who want to do business in China itself, but if you wish to carry out work in any other major business sector in the world, knowing Chinese will be of very little use to you. English, on the other hand, is necessary for business regardless of whether you’re in South America or spending time in Dubai. The sprinkling of English across the globe is perhaps what gives this language the leg up, allowing it to retain its number one spot despite China’s burst of economic prowess. For now, the cause for English is safe.

Although English may hold eminence now, you should be wary of getting left behind in our rapid move towards an ever more interconnected world.  The greatest show of respect to another culture, especially when doing business with them, is to learn to communicate in their language. And learning a foreign language has never been easier with free online placement tests to help you identify your level and excellent language classes to push you to achieve your goals. Keep up with our modern world and increase your personal value through language acquisition. This way you’ll be more than prepared for whatever language transition the world makes in the years to come!