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Why Learning Chinese is a Smart Business/Career Move

By Matthew Worley

Top 10 Reasons

Like most Westerners, just a few years ago you might not have been thinking very much about China. However, these days China is all over the news. You, like more and more people, may be wondering, ¡°Should I be learning Chinese?¡± The answer is a resounding "Yes". The following are the top 10 reasons why learning Chinese is a smart business move for the young professional or career-minded person.


1. Because the world is changing

You've heard it before. Globalization. Outsourcing. Opening of free trade. The US, while still important, must now share the stage with other countries, primarily China. With China's admittance to the WTO, a large trade balance in its favor, and its booming economy, the need to interact with China is apparent.

2. Because everyone else is doing it

OK, so not everyone else is learning Chinese. But did you know that Chinese is the fastest-growing language studied in the US? Enrollment in college Chinese language courses is at an all-time high. Recently a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress to provide Chinese language classes even for high school students. Other countries are even more advanced in this regard.


3. To stay competitive

In a few short years, these myriads of workers fresh out of college will be hitting the work force with Chinese speaking skills. By learning Chinese now, you set yourself apart as a proactive person. Not only will you position yourself to compete with the new entrants, you can also take advantage of increased opportunities that arise as trade with China grows.


4. Global supply chains

But your company has its factories in the US, you say. But will it always have? What about the subcomponents or raw materials? Even US-based manufacturing firms are discovering that to maintain competitive cost structures, they often must deal with global supply chains and sourcing. Of course, the largest provider of the subcomponents and raw materials is China.


5. Manufacturing

China has 1.3 billion people, a workforce that is good at labor-intensive jobs, and lower costs. Enough said. But these factories often have foreign management, consultants, accountants, etc. And these factories also have to deal with the other end of the global supply chain. By learning Chinese, you can help provide the links between these factories and American companies.

6. Because the Chinese market is the largest consumer market in the world

It's not just about manufacturing and outsourcing any more. Today, Western companies are looking at the Chinese economy as potentially the most profitable market in the world. According to the Department of Commerce, more than 16,000 American companies sell products in China. The China of today is not the China of yesterday. In China, urban teenagers are seen walking with an MP3 player in one hand and a cell phone in the other, just as in America. The Chinese are hungry for consumer goods -- foreign goods to boot. Western companies need professionals with Chinese speaking skills to build links with Chinese companies, form partnerships with Chinese companies, and market, brand, and sell products to the Chinese.

7. Because your career may depend on it

So we already know that a) outsourcing to China is growing and b) there are already many young professionals in the pipeline learning Chinese. Suppose you are a manager having to make the unfortunate decision about whose job to cut: what are you going to do? Are you going to cut the person with the keys to potentially the most lucrative market in the world, the one who showed foresight and proactivity by going to learn how to speak Chinese to begin with? No, I don't think so. That person is too valuable. Learning Chinese can only help your career and give you more options.

8. Because 1.2 billion people speak Chinese

That's right, 1.2 billion! Talk about having access to a greater social and professional network! Can you think of one other activity that could possibly open up more doors than learning Chinese?

9. Beijing 2008 Olympics

The Turin Olympics just closed. The next day headlines touted China's preparation for 2008. China¡¯s government realizes (as do most of the people in the know) that this is the ¡°coming-of-age party¡± for China. Beijing 2008 is not only symbolic of China's emergence onto the world stage of economic power but also pragmatic, as it helps Beijing showcase its flourishing economy and to deepen ties with Western companies. By learning Chinese, you can be ready for this historic event and take part in it.

10. Because it's not as hard as you think

That's right. Learning to speak Chinese is not as hard as you think. Unfortunately, many Chinese schools and Chinese learning materials have given students the opposite impression. However, modern technology can aid in the learning process dramatically. Furthermore, most professionals will find that learning to speak Chinese will be enough without learning to write Chinese characters (which is what really takes up the most time). In the modern age, the computer can help you type anyway. At our Chinese language school, we follow an approach that focuses only on the most necessary communications and practical applications. The Chinese language has a surprisingly straightforward set of rules regarding speaking and grammar. With the correct approach people can find themselves speaking Chinese within a short period of time. So by learning Chinese you can take part in an activity that has huge benefits for your career and your r¨¦sum¨¦ but takes less time than getting a second degree or learning other skills.

About the Author

Matt Worley is the principal of the 1-Month Mandarin™ program at the Chinese Language Institute of Beijing, a private Chinese language school in China. He holds an MBA and a Masters of Accounting Science and is self-taught in Chinese. 1-Month Mandarin™ is specially designed to help young professionals learn Chinese quickly by prioritizing learning and utilizing computer-assisted language learning.


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