It is incredible to think there are now 250 million Chinese learning English. As with all things Chinese, the numbers are mind-boggling. Even so, this represents a large chunk of the Chinese population.
Language is one of the great barriers to culture and trade, especially when it comes to mobility of labour. The influx of workers from central Europe into Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years was greatly facilitated by the teaching of English from an early age in these European countries ( in the case of Poland, religious similarity was another factor.).
With tens of millions of people around the world learning Chinese, one wonders how this ‘ exchange’ of languages will affect the relationship between China and the rest of the world. Perhaps the famed Chinese inscrutability had more to do with the perception that their language was impenetrable.
Already, with its unique brand of centralised capitalism, the Chinese economy has opened up to a far greater extent than most would have predicted even ten years ago. However, the learning of English on such a mass scale will surely break down communications barriers further – barriers already substantially breached by the internet and the social websites.
This must be of some concern to the Chinese authorities already grappling to contain the so called ‘jasmine’ revolution, fuelled by discontent over economic inequalities, corruption and wanton pollution and facilitated by the web. Will further exposure to English speaking cultures accelerate openness in China?
Regardless of how this pans out, simplyhowe.com will be targeting this potentially vast and lucrative market. We already have an English to Mandarin module on the market, which is selling well. We are very close to completing development of a Mandarin to English version. Maybe we can contribute, in some small way, to breaking down those barriers.