Guess what former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and United States president Donald Trump’s granddaughter, Arabella Kushner, have in common? They all study Chinese as a second language.
Although Chinese is known as one of the hardest languages to learn, a lot of people from different backgrounds are studying it with hopes of big benefits.
Nov 2 saw more than 120 people, representing 105 countries, compete in the finals of the 12th “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for foreign secondary school students. Held in Zhengzhou, Henan province, the finals featured speech contests and talent shows. The contestants also visited the Shaolin Temple, Longmen Grottoes and other historical sites in Henan.
While reasons for learning Chinese varied among contestants, a common one was enthusiasm for the country’s rich culture and rapid development.
Raissa, 17, from the Union of the Comoros, developed a strong emotional connection with China after her grandmother was cured by doctors of the Chinese medical team in Africa three years ago. This led her to learn Chinese at a local Confucius Institute.
Fascinated by Chinese culture, the contestant has taken part in activities on traditional Chinese medicine and folk arts during her first trip to China. “My dream is to study medicine in China so that I could cure patients like the Chinese doctors did,” she said.
For Fekete Marcell Zoltan, 17, from the Hungarian-Chinese Bilingual School, studying Chinese may secure him a future job as a Hungarian diplomat to China. “After graduation from high school, I would like to further my studies in China,” he said.
Now that a bridge has been established between the contestants and China, where will their journeys take them?
Robert Davis, director of the Chinese-language program in Chicago’s public school system, may give you a hint. “Chinese isn’t the new French. It’s the new English,” he told CGTN.