A legislative initiative for the EU Parliament to make Chinese a European language and teach it as a second or third foreign language in school equal to English.
Our attitudes towards languages reflect economic, political as well as ideological and cultural shifts. Before WWII Europeans learned predominantly French as a lingua franca. This changed with the outcome of the war and the presence and hegemony of the USA as a dominant economic, political, military and cultural force. School children were all asked
Thanks to globalization and the revolution in communication, transportation and free market legislation, China has become a new superpower that is about to dominate the 21st century and is here to stay. Not only is China dictating demographically, they are also starting to live up to their size in economic, educational, scientific and cultural terms. China has a very dynamic, highly motivated, very well-trained and tremendously talented work force and adds every year tens of millions to an ever-growing middle class that is equal in wealth, education and cultural sophistication to those in North America and Europe. The best American Universities are filled with Chinese nationals and outnumber by far their European counterparts. Chinese are also becoming splendid consumers and travelers as well as producers and inventors of products, fashions, life styles and cultures.
There is also a large Chinese diaspora. An important network of an oversea Chinese population covers the world. Chinese communities belong to the most versatile and hardest working groups in the world. Large numbers of Chinese also live in Europe and so-called Chinatowns are part of every major city. Within only one or two generations, Chinese migrant workers reach middle class status. According to Wikipedia, 1.6 million oversea Chinese or 0.2 % of the overall local population are living in Europe. They prefer to live in bigger cities where the percentage can rise to 2.5 % of the overall population, as is the case in Paris with over 50 000 ethnic Chinese. 5000 – 6000 oversea Chinese people are living in Brussels. LONDON
Give these facts and the new importance of the EU – China relationship, it would only be in the most vital interest of Europe to adopt Mandarin as a new European language and encourage teaching Chinese throughout the European school system. In the way Europe adapted English as a language of choice and prospered, Europeans need to embrace Chinese and make it an official European language through legislation. Such a legislative change would make Europe a better trading and exchange partner for China and make everybody prosper. It would help to balance the cultural trade deficit and enrich Europe not only economically through improved economic ties but also culturally and socially. With Chinese as an official European language and millions of students studying, Europe could become the “new continent of the middle” between Asia and the Americas. Last but not least, this would diminish racist sentiment towards Asians living in Europe and it would help China adapt faster to environmental, legal and humanitarian standards Europe tries to adhere to.
Let’s learn and speak Chinese !
Rainer Ganahl, August 2009 - pleaseteachmechinese @ yahoo.com