The Confucius Institute Headquarters has estimated the number of Mandarin learners across the world has reached over 100 million, including 60 million overseas Chinese and 40 million foreigners.
This September, like many other children, Prince George started his first day at school. In addition to English, Math and Ballet, the 4 year old prince is also learning Mandarin.
British politician David Cameron and UK Prime Minister Theresa May have commented on the importance of learning Mandarin. Cameron once said, “It's time to look beyond the traditional focus on French and German and get many more children learning Mandarin.”
In September 2016, the British government launched the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP), aimed at supporting the teaching of Mandarin in British middle schools. By investing 10 million pounds in the program, the government hope the number of Mandarin learners will rise to 400 thousand.
Other countries in Europe are also increasing their attention on Mandarin education. In France, over 150 universities have established Mandarin courses and the Ministry of Education has developed the position titled Inspector-General of Mandarin. In addition, over 40 thousand people in Spain are studying Mandarin and they have had the highest number of participants taking HSK (Chinese proficiency test) over the past few years.
This trend continues in Holland where Princess Catharina-Amalia, heir apparent to the throne of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, has been learning Mandarin for over a year.
It seems the driving force behind the fever is opportunity, and a realization that learning Mandarin has moved past being a hobby and can be an essential skill that adds value.
In a British survey asking parents which language they would most like their children to learn, Mandarin came out on top. Over 50% of the parents believe acquiring Mandarin can be a great asset when job hunting in the future.
As China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative continues, there is a large vacancy in positions which require Mandarin language skills. According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Commerce, last year, Chinese enterprises employed 1.5 million foreigners for their overseas divisions, this was 1.8 times higher than in 2014.
The Mandarin fever suggests that more and more countries are willing to communicate with China. After all, as Nelson Mandela said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart."