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Mandarin Learning Is a Must


Mandarin Learning Is a Must

By Jack Markell and Gary R. Herbert

Oct. 25, 2016, at 7:00 a.m.

America's economic growth is inextricably tied to the strength of its bilateral trade and investment relationships around the world, but we will fall short of achieving our full economic potential if we fail to prepare the next generation to manage those relationships.

Tomorrow's leaders must be able to compete, work and thrive in a globalized world with diverse, multilingual consumers and economies in which China and the U.S. will continue to be major players. By offering American students early education opportunities to learn Mandarin, we can prepare them for careers in a world and workplace in which our country's bilateral ties play a consequential role.

We are encouraged by the growing number of American students who have begun learning Mandarin in school in recent years. The U.S. Department of Education reported that after Spanish, Mandarin was the most popular dual-language education program implemented by individual states in 2013.

Still, we have a lot of ground to make up if we are to equip our students with the necessary language tools to engage with the world's second-largest economy. While China boasts more than 300 million English-language learners, there are only 200,000 K-12 Mandarin language learners here in the U.S. Further, English classes are mandatory for Chinese K-12 students, but less than 0.4 percent of American K-12 students are currently studying Mandarin.

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