50 million learning a foreign language in China

I’m amazed to find out that China has nearly 50 million people who are currently learning foreign languages. According to a Chinese Ministry of Education official, 900 colleges offer an English major, and of those, more than 600 can confer a bachelor’s degree and more than 200 can confer master’s degrees.

There are more than 800,000 students majoring in English in China annually!

By contrast, New Zealand produces approximately 21,000 graduates per year across all disciplines, of which approximately 2,000 were classed as “humanities” graduates. I imagine languages, history, geography etc would all fall under this category. As it stands, New Zealand is one of the most monolingual countries in the world. I don’t see this changing any time soon. Perhaps some people reading this article would be thinking why bother with learning a language if everyone is learning English as a second language. Here are some reasons:

1. It seems a little unfair that we expect other people to devote so much time, money and energy to learning English so that they can communicate with us if we’re not prepared to make any effort at all.
After all, it’s just a matter of luck that we were born to speak English and not one of the 6,000 or so other languages in the world.

2. We in New Zealand are reliant upon links with other countries for our prosperity, and the majority of our trade now is with non-English speaking countries. Why should our international partners be keen
to trade with us if we make no serious attempt to understand their languages and their cultures?

3. When you travel in a country without a knowledge of the language, in some ways you only scratch the surface; only when you know the language do you realise how much you would otherwise be missing.

4. If you have never learnt another language, you have missed out on a key experience which millions of other people have had: understanding the ways in which languages can differ, realising that the way your language conveys meaning is not necessarily the “right” way, just one way among dozens of possible ways.

5. If you have never looked at another language, it is doubtful that you can ever really understand your own.

Well, if you’ve always wanted to learn a language, it’s not to late to join Euroasia for the April 08 intake.

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Why a blog on language and culture?

We have been thinking about sharing some of our thoughts for a while. It recently dawned on me that we have access to a community of over 2000 New Zealanders, who have completed a course with us sometime over the past 5 years. Our team members have unique perspectives as migrants and educators in New Zealand. Unfortunately, often our perspectives are not heard, so why not share some of our thoughts here? And maybe provoke some debate along the way?

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