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Chinese should be taught in schools: minister

TT/Clara Guibourg · 6 Jul 2011, 09:41

Published: 06 Jul 2011 09:41 GMT+02:00

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"Chinese will become more important, from an economic perspective, than French or Spanish," he said to newspaper Dagens Industri.

French, Spanish and German are today the languages commonly offered in all elementary and high school language classes.

Björklund wants Sweden to be the first European country to introduce Chinese language classes in all schools, in a bid to strengthen the country's competitiveness.

"Not everyone in the business world speaks English. Highly qualified businesses are now leaving Europe and moving to China," he points out to business newspaper Dagens Industri.

"If we look towards the next generation, it's almost unavoidable to think anything else than that China will be a very important global actor," said the minister in an interview with Sveriges Radio (SR).

He calculates that it will take between ten and fifteen years to recruit sufficient numbers of teachers able to teach the language.

Story continues below…

"It all boils down to teacher training colleges and other institutions expanding their programmes, and if we decide to do this, it's definitely possible," said Björklund to SR.

TT/Clara Guibourg (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

10:59 July 6, 2011 by RobinHood
"Not everyone in the business world speaks English"

Yes they do Jan! They do if they want to get a decent job in a multi national.

75 years ago it was German, then it was Russian, then, in the eighties, it was Japanese, now it's Chinese. Sorry Jan, I find it hard to take seriously yet another politician telling us what language will be the next lingua franca of business. Especially as tens of millions of Chinese are busy learning English right now. Maybe you might benefit from spending less time in politics, and getting out into the real world more often.

The battle of the future global business language was fought, won and moved on decades ago. Chinese and Swedish people will indeed do a lot of business together in the future, but they will do it in English.
11:31 July 6, 2011 by zeero
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
13:11 July 6, 2011 by Max Reaver
Not always in English Robin, I've visited China and lived there. Trust me, big businesses require that you know the language of the local.
13:39 July 6, 2011 by jacquelinee
As many language options that are available to study is always a good thing.

A person who speaks several languages has a big advantage when it comes to high level careers. I wish these options had been available to me when I was in school.

By being negative and seeing the aquisition of various language programs being added to the academic curriculum as a threat to the current society, we are actually being detrimental to our youth.

Globalized economy is here, and our youth need to grab every option available to them to increase their potential to compete in todays Global economy.
14:57 July 6, 2011 by Nemesis
For once a politician has come out with a good idea.

Please implement that idea and give every kid the chance to learn chinese.
16:07 July 6, 2011 by c.c. cubelik
Nov. 15, 2010

In an effort to promote internationalism, China is learning English.

In the next five years, all state employees younger than 40 will be required to master at least 1,000 English phrases, and all schools will begin teaching English in kindergarten. The government also is funding extensive teacher training programs to find new models for language learning and develop new textbooks.

Check the end of this story for a few phrases in Mandarin, courtesy of LonelyPlanet.

Parents who can afford to, are sending their children -- some as young as 2 -- to private language schools that are popping up all over the country. By the time they are 10, the children will be fluent.

"China is more open to the world," said one teacher. "We [the older generation] want our kids to open their eyes to get to know the world [and] look at China not only from standing in China but from outside of China as well."

17:41 July 6, 2011 by calebian22
As someone who has worked extensively in China, I have to say this is a great idea. Fantastic! Yes, English is spoken extensively, but at the same time being able to speak Chinese as a westerner would be really helpful; certainly more helpful than French or Spanish. Great proposal.
18:33 July 6, 2011 by mkvgtired
Ive been to China and one of my good friends lived and worked there for a while. His office spoke English, and so did almost all the international company offices there. This included the German consulate one of his friends worked at. That being said English was very rare among the native population (even in very international Shanghai). Only one cab driver knew English (and we took countless cabs in several cities).

I guess my point is even if the office speaks English, if anyone wants to live in China, speaking Chinese would make that experience much more enjoyable. I know English is aggressively being taught there, but it is still very rare to find English speakers among the native population.
20:29 July 6, 2011 by alec_xu
As a Chinese myself, I would say it is necessary to learn the language to do business with the people there. It is true that Chinese people are taking efforts in learning English, and it is expected that the younger generations on average will be more fluent in speaking it than the older generations. However, knowing the local language is always a plus, just like I also need to learn Swedish to get myself more integrated to the society here.

And what mkvgtired said is also right to me. Something mkvgtired does not know, most likely, or hasn't pointed out, is that the English teaching in China so far is mainly targeted for taking exams (of which the ultimate goal is to get qualified for university entrance and graduation through the fierce competition), but not for communication purposes. The majority of Chinese people who can communicate with English proficiently are either people majored in English learning in universities or people who have been studying or/and working abroad, the sum of which is a small fraction to the total population who has learned English for at least 10 years.
20:38 July 6, 2011 by Grokh
the whole world is learning English including the China,

english has been accepted as a basic language for multicultural understanding.

chinese is too much of a mess of a language for anyone to learn specially since they themselves have different dialects that in their own country cannot understand eachother.

So only people who brainwash their kids to become bankers that want to rape the world and everyone in it should focus on that not random people who probably will never even see a chinese in their lifetime.
22:26 July 6, 2011 by Birbun
It's about time the English mothertongue starts to learn a foreign language instead to be lazy.

Stop the English colonization now!
23:01 July 6, 2011 by calebian22

You're a fool.
23:16 July 6, 2011 by DragonSun
Grokh, as far as I see. Wherever I travel to a place, I can see several Chinese: Paris, Barcelona, Stockholm, Helsinki, Milan, Rome, Reykjavik, Wien, Munich, Bratislava, Prague, Budapest... Chinese are all over the world. Maybe you can see one tmr, if you don't assume he/she is Japanese
23:33 July 6, 2011 by 420
I learned Chinese while living in China for one year (in total immersion, the only way to become fluent so fast)... and I would say it's not necessary to introduce Chinese instruction in Swedish schools. At least not any more necessary than Portuguese, Russian, or Hindi which are languages of similarly rising economies. I think instead of focusing on a few languages being available in schools throughout the country, language teaching should be diversified. If a kommun has a teacher that's qualified to teach Latvian, they should offer Latvian, etc. The point with learning a third language (after English) isn't to learn the language because it's useful (that's what English is for) but rather to exercise the brain and increase mutual understanding across cultures. It's amazing how many Swedes don't know, for instance, how similar Latvian culture is to Swedish culture. They celebrate midsummer and everything.
23:36 July 6, 2011 by lovebobu
just more choices for future Swedish period!!!!!!!!!!
05:45 July 8, 2011 by ccb

I have to agree with Calebian22. English is my mother tongue and I speak 3 other languages and many of my native English speaking colleagues at least one other language. So don't be fooled naive American pop culture. I would love to learn Chinese as soon as I get my Swedish to a sufficiently advanced level.
14:26 July 8, 2011 by tadchem
My mother, a proofreader for a newspaper, had a favorite similé: "crazier than a Chinese typesetter."

In the US a metaphor for 'chaos' is "Chinese fire drill."

There is no phrase in Chinese that means "alphabetical order."
17:48 July 8, 2011 by Iftikhar_Ahmad
Bilingual Muslim children need to learn and be well versed in their mother tongues along with native language. Learning their mother tongues will help them to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry. It wll also help them to develop self-confidence and self-esteem.


03:59 July 9, 2011 by Wireless.Phil
They are trying to teach Chinese to the students in school here in the states too,

but it has nothing to do with business.

Those learning Chinese will be the next spies for their home country decoding Chinese language broadcast during the coming wars with the Chinese.
05:14 July 10, 2011 by ccb
Why are Americans always talking about wars with other nations? Is that seriously all there is to American society? Maybe if you guys reduce your military budget and spend it on education and healthcare you would be better off.
09:22 July 11, 2011 by Purple_Rache
I don't see why this would be a bad move, as long as they were still learning English also. Chinese is spoken by a third of the world (maybe more by now), I don't see it from a business angle, more a being able to communicate with more people angle. Once I've got my head around Swedish (to a fluent level I mean), Chinese is a language I'm very much interested in learning.
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