The Best Language To Learn

Simon Long nominates Chinese:

China’s economy is going to be the biggest in the world – the only question is when. You can make your own educated guess by using the clever interactive infographic at economist.com/chinavusa. The default option is 2018. Already China’s spectacular 30-year boom has transformed our lives. When I grew up in London, there were no Chinese tourists, and nothing we owned was made in China. And now? The Chinese economy is likely to continue to outpace the rich world’s for decades to come, tilting the balance of economic power. Learn Chinese, not to impress your future boss, but to understand what she is saying.

A reader responding to the recent thread on learning French calls Chinese an “aspirational” language for Americans to learn:

When Americans talk about the utility of Chinese, they are talking about their fantasies of their kids joining the one percent (or staying in it) by mastering the tongue of the current journalistic A-list up and coming economy.  Brazil is a vast and growing economy, but no one is talking about teaching Portuguese in US high schools.  Learning Chinese is aspirational, but not necessarily rational.

Another insists that “learning to speak Chinese is like learning to speak European”:

There are people who speak Mandarin, but try to speak Mandarin in most of China and it’s about as useful as speaking English to someone in France. On the other hand, learning to speak Mandarin is as useful as learning to speak English if you are Japanese and plan on taking a 21-day tour of Europe. You’ll be able to find someone who speaks English everywhere in Europe and someone who speaks Mandarin everywhere in China. It doesn’t do you much good when you go to India, where it’s real easy to find people who speak passable English. Or Japan. Or Argentina. Or …