If a person who speaks three languages is trilingual, and one who speaks four languages is quadrilingual, then what is someone called who speaks no foreign languages at all?
Answer: an American.
Americans are engaged in a headlong and ambitious rush to learn Chinese — or, more precisely, to get their kids to learn Chinese. Everywhere I turn, people are asking me the best way for their children to learn Chinese.
That’s because Chinese classes have replaced violin classes as the latest in competitive parenting, and because I am with AsianceMagazine, have written various articles on the subject and take lessons myself!
Chinese is still far less common in schools or universities than Spanish or French, but it is growing rapidly and has the “cool factor” behind it — so public and private schools alike are hastening to add Chinese to the curriculum.
In New York City alone, about 80 schools offer Chinese, with some programs beginning in kindergarten. And let’s be frank: If your child hasn’t started Mandarin classes by third grade, he or she will never amount to anything.
Just kidding. I for one, am a firm believer in more American kids learning Mandarin! Because Mandarin is so difficult to master, it is wise to start teaching children at a very young age. Undoubtedly, the language that will be essential for Americans and has far more day-to-day applications at the current time, is Spanish.
Spanish is simply not near as prestigious as Mandarin, but it’s an everyday presence in the United States — and will become even more so as Hispanics made up 16 percent of America’s population in 2009 and is rapidly growing.