To say that learning Chinese is beneficial for Singaporeans as it opens up business opportunities with the rise of China is indeed a cliché. There’s no doubt that Singapore, which has the world’s first and second most important languages – English and Mandarin –– at its disposal is strategically advantaged to reap the bounty from China’s economic revival.
The question is hence not how Singaporeans will benefit economically from learning Mandarin, but rather how they can enrich themselves linguistically, culturally and technologically.
A Living Ancient Language
Chinese, which includes Mandarin and its variants such as Cantonese, Hakka and Hokkien, is a communication tool that spans 5000 years of history. In fact, anthropologists contend that out of the world’s three earliest formal writing systems from which today’s other writing systems have developed – the Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Chinese logographs – only the Chinese writing system is still being used today. So, just imagine how much insight, philosophy and sociology you could garner from five millennia of linguistic history by learning Chinese. Behind the characters, expressions and idioms, you could see the thoughts and worldviews of the Chinese society. The Chinese language is really a mirror of the Chinese civilisation.
A Bridge of Goodwill
Understanding the Chinese language is a prerequisite for appreciating the Chinese culture. It is a bridge that connects you and your culture with a community and culture of one billion people. As you understand the cultural intricacies that emanate from the Chinese language, you are more likely to be able to foster understanding and rapport with the Chinese society, creating trust and goodwill that will not only bring mutual benefits, but global impact too, and with positive economic and social consequences. Hence, mastering the language will lead to cultural discoveries that will not just unplug business potential but sustain a precious goodwill for doing business.
A Key to Future
China is an ancient civilisation which invented paper, gun powder, movable type, printing, silk, among others. Their capabilities saw the construction of the Great Wall and Grand Canal. If they could accomplish these millennia ago, the question is not if they have repeated the feat but when they will surpass it. It is obvious that they are closing the technological gap between them and the West every year. Mastering Mandarin may see you ride on the tide of Chinese technological invention and dominance in the near future, if not now – a tide that you can harness to benefit yourself and your community.