With a slow recovery from the recession and double digit unemployment continuing in many parts of the United States, more and more college students are beginning to wonder when the economic climate will turn in their favor. For most, the chances of securing a high-paying job right out of college have all but disappeared. This new reality has spawned increasing interest in students who are now looking abroad for career opportunities – particularly in China where the economy remains strong.
With over 1.3 billion citizens and a rapidly growing economy, no one can deny the usefulness of learning Chinese. However, the question remains if college students, who study Chinese, fare better than their peers who don’t. The answer may be found by simply looking at the example of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg who is now learning Chinese to increase his company’s ability to penetrate this enormous market. Without a doubt, there is money to be made and career opportunities to be found in China, and those who are taking the time to learn to communicate with its population will have a distinct advantage over those who are limited by their lack of language skills.
While Spanish still remains the most widely taught language after English throughout US-based higher education institutions, Chinese is now the fastest growing language being taught in schools with numbers growing rapidly. However, because Chinese is a tonal language with certain sounds having to be memorized and an alphabet that is entirely different to that of English, it’s often considered to be far more challenging to learn than the more commonly taught romance languages.
Challenges in learning the language have led some students all the way to China to study. And for some, this education decision is paying off with quicker mastery of the language, better understanding of the culture, and, in some cases, job opportunities for those who take advantage of networking and business development opportunities during their time abroad.
One such program, offered by NextStep China, focuses on providing Chinese language immersion programs for students, as well as for professionals. The US-based organization takes a comprehensive approach to its programs by offering both language classes at universities in Beijing and Shanghai along with a variety of support services to ease the transition and maximize the experience for language students.
“Unlike most of the Chinese language programs offered at schools in the United States, we offer a total immersion that incorporates learning the language, understanding the culture, and developing the skills needed to succeed in this highly complex country,” says Derek Capo, founder and CEO of Next Step China. “We’ve had students go directly from our program into positions within Chinese-owned companies and multi-national enterprises with offices in China. There are opportunities to be had in China, and obviously, learning the language is a must for anyone who wants to take advantage of them.”
According to one student, “One of the reasons I decided to learn Chinese now was because of its future importance. Many say that China will become the world’s next superpower. China is a huge producer of goods and knowing Mandarin is great for business.”
As more US-based companies explore opportunities to both sell to the Chinese market and create partnerships with China-based enterprises, there will undoubtedly be more jobs for Americans hoping to find employment in the world’s most populated country.