Tuesday, 17 January 2006

The Chinese Way

On the train home from London yesterday, I shared a carriage with three Russian women, two Chinese, one African and I think, an Iranian sitting opposite me. It somehow reminded me of the film, “Blade Runner”, where in a futuristic Los Angeles; even the police speak a peculiar mix of “City speak”, Chinese, Spanish and English.

Chinese or at least Mandarin is now the language to learn and if I was younger, Id’ probably try learning it myself and if it were taught in my daughter’s school, I’d be delighted.

An independent school in Brighton has become the first in the UK to make Mandarin Chinese compulsory for pupils, reflecting the growing importance of China on the world stage. But it's not an easy language to master. Firstly, the script poses problems. There is no alphabet, just thousands of characters; so many that no one can give a definitive total, but it is believed to be around 60,000.

China is now the world's fastest growing major economy and with British exports to the country expected to quadruple by the end of the decade, government wants every school, college and university to be twinned with an equivalent in China within the next five years.

An estimated 100 schools in the UK are now teaching Mandarin, China's official language but I suspect, it may be slow in coming to Thanet.

We all need to grasp the importance of China’s growth and perhaps encourage our children to think about it too, because it’s China, rather than a defunct and tottering Europe, which will increasingly define our wealth and the shape of our economy in the future and when everything one can think of can be made more cheaply over there, what on earth are we going to manufacture and add value to over here?

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