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Why is learning Chinese so important?

Why is learning Chinese so important?

Any child struggling with learning Chinese in school would find that every lesson can feel like an endless, boring slog. But it’s not entirely their fault - through one way or another, they have been led to believe that excelling in the subject is a fruitless endeavour, and that they are better off spending their study time elsewhere.

That’s why it’s essential to remind them from time to time about why they’re learning Chinese in the first place. After all, it’s not just about getting good results in school.

If you’re having trouble convincing your child to start putting more effort into learning Chinese, it might be worth going through these reasons as to why it’s important for them.

#1: Ease of communication

Learning Chinese in school isn’t just about the written language, it also involves the study of Mandarin, the verbal component, too.

Although English is the most commonly used language in Singapore, Mandarin is still frequently spoken by the local Chinese community. One can expect most Chinese mom-and-pop shops and eateries in the heartlands to interact with their customers in Mandarin whenever possible. Being fluent in both languages would therefore make life easier for anyone living in Singapore.

It’s not just about being able to communicate in local settings, either; Mandarin is in fact the second most widely spoken language in the world, including popular holiday destinations in Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan. Needless to say, understanding Mandarin will help you and your child get the most out of your vacations to these places.

#2: Better job opportunities

The employment landscape has changed radically over the years. With more foreign companies moving their regional offices to Singapore, local talents are now exposed to more multinational companies (MNCs) than ever before.

It’s worth noting that a significant number of these companies are primarily based in China. While English remains the primary language to do business in Singapore, many of these companies do require their employees to have at least a rudimentary understanding of Chinese - a quality that they tend to look for during the recruitment process.

This doesn’t mean that anyone not being proficient in Chinese will definitely face a lack of employment opportunities. On the other hand however, it’s not a stretch to guess that the pool of prospective employers may shrink because of it.

#3: Sharing a link with our families

Many households in Singapore include senior citizens who have made Chinese their primary language for their entire lives. Although some have made the effort to learn conversational English in their later years, the majority are unlikely to ever do so.

It’s therefore not surprising to hear anecdotes of children becoming alienated from their grandparents due to their own preference for using English as their main form of communication; never speaking, with only polite nods and laconic responses when spoken to in Mandarin.

Needless to say, mastering the Chinese language can help bridge the divide between the oldest and youngest generations in the family, as speaking in their mother tongue helps strengthen their bonds and draw them closer together. Communicating in Mandarin will also allow the grandchildren to unlock a treasure trove of useful insights and stories from their elders as well - a precious resource that cannot be procured anywhere else.

#4: Getting in touch with one’s roots

It’s comforting to be connected with our roots, to understand the histories of our families and be certain of where we came from. This knowledge helps us to learn our place in the world and develop a sense of familiarity with the cultures that our ancestors came from.

Although it’s easy to understand the history of our forefathers on an intellectual level and learn to identify with our culture through research, the fact remains that understanding and even being fluent with one’s mother tongue is the primary method of becoming closer to one’s roots.

With language, we are able to understand more than just how cultural habits and beliefs are formed; we can also gain an understanding of why they are done so, and incorporate it into our personal lives as a result. It’s the difference between recognising the icon for ‘good fortune’ (福) during Chinese New Year, and perfectly understanding why this character is commonly depicted upside-down and enjoys an elevated importance during that particular time of the year.

It’s no secret that the Chinese language can be a difficult subject to master for students in school. There are many reasons behind their struggles, but one of the biggest ones is their lack of motivation in trying to learn the subject.

It’s therefore important to help inspire them to take a more active interest in learning Chinese, such as by reminding them about its importance not just in terms of school results, but their personal lives as well.

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