Bridge of language links both banks

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-09-06 07:59

Bridge of language links both banks

American students learn how to do suxiu, Suzhou-style embroidery, in July in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. [Photo by Wang Jiankang/For China Daily]

Education initiative takes off as number of American students learning Mandarin doubles in two years. NEW YORK-The number of US K-12 students learning Mandarin has doubled to around 400,000 in two years, says Morgan Jones, chief operating officer, US-China Strong Foundation.

The US nonprofit is leading a Chinese language education initiative called 1 Million Strong that seeks to expand to 1 million the number of US K-12 students learning Mandarin by 2020.

The nonprofit has seen a lot of growth since the program was announced in 2015.

"They were somewhere around 200,000 Americans learning Mandarin Chinese. There are currently 400,000 learning Mandarin Chinese," says Jones, who speaks fluent Mandarin himself.

Jones says the number was estimated based on data collected from various resources including American Council on Education that focuses mostly on public and private schools.

"We also look at heritage schools where Chinese-Americans are learning Mandarin Chinese," he says. "We also have our own in-house data team that has been reaching out to immersion schools throughout the United States."

Jones says that "there are many case studies with more schools opening up", bringing in "tens of thousands of students to their school districts and programs".

Three factors have led to the rising popularity of learning Chinese in the United States, Jones says.

First, there's a strong economic relationship between both countries. "I think that's really a huge cost to get people to want to learn Mandarin Chinese, to get involved in business, to find career opportunities or even compete fairly competition economically with China, which is key," he says.

Second, learning Chinese helps Americans "dig deeper" into China's 5,000-year history and culture as one has to learn the language to get immersed in that environment. And many Americans are "very interested in that" including Jones himself.

Third, the rapid growth and expansion of private Chinese-learning schools, programs, as well as related online programs, and mobile phone apps, also provides Americans greater accessibility and convenience to learn this language.

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