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More Americans see benefits of learning Chinese

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-07-18 09:14

NEW YORK - Arabella and Joseph Kushner, grandchildren of US President Donald Trump, endeared themselves to Chinese-speaking communities in early April when they performed a traditional folk song "Jasmine" in Mandarin for Chinese President Xi Jinping during the two leaders' first meeting in Florida.

The two young members of the US first family are joining a growing list of American celebrities including Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Malia Obama, former President Barack Obama's daughter who take Chinese as their second language.

The followers of the world's oldest written language are not confined to key public figures. US statistics show Chinese is the third most popular language in the country, only behind English, official language, and Spanish.

Why are Americans so enthusiastic about Chinese?

Each one might have a different story but all of our interviewees agree that Chinese, against the backdrop of the breathtaking scale and development of China, is becoming an increasingly useful asset for their personal and professional growth in the future, not least gaining a better understanding of one of the richest cultures in the world.


"When I chose Chinese, I just thought I don't know much about China and this will be an opportunity for me to learn something and I'm very glad that I did," Aisling McCaffrey told Xinhua recently at the New York-based China Institute, the oldest educational institution devoted solely to Chinese culture in the United States.

McCaffrey started learning Chinese when she was in her first year majoring in international business at the Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. After graduation, she went to the Renmin University in Beijing, China, for further studies.

"I think everyone believes that China will be the next great superpower ...even if it's not a superpower like America. It's still very significant," she said. "And learning Chinese is the best way to make sure that you can be part of that growth."

"And you know for us in North America, we need China's help for our economy to grow, you need our help for your economy to grow. So I think a lot of us are interested in facilitating that growth on both sides through communication, and Mandarin is a very important language for that."

McCaffrey has recently relocated to New York City with her boyfriend after working a few years at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, China. She comes to the monthly Mandarin meet-up at the China Institute while searching the next step in her career.

"I get to practise my Chinese...I would like to take more lessons because if I don't speak Chinese, I can already feel myself losing it and I really don't want to forget it because I spent many years working on it," she said.

"To be honest, the fact that I didn't know much about China before and then I developed this love for China, I spent most of my adult life living in China, which has really influenced my life. I wouldn't be the person I am today without learning Mandarin," she said.

McCaffrey said learning Chinese was the first step to know China and its culture.

"If you want to learn a culture you should learn the language, because how are you gonna to talk to the people and know what they are doing if you can't talk to them?" McCaffrey said.

"I realize that for some people politics are very very important and I respect their views, but at the same time they don't know what Chinese people are like, they've never talked to the people and I think that they could take the opportunity to go to China and see what it's really like because it is a wonderful place," she added.

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