The influence of the Chinese language has been steadily growing across the globe. According to the academic Jeffrey Gil, Chinese may become a global language—much as English has—owing to China’s burgeoning economy. This idea doesn’t seem entirely far-fetched, since already, Chinese language education has been made a part of the national education systems of over 70 countries, and demand for Chinese language skills is growing, notably in Southeast Asia and Africa. As the global economic stage shifts, it’s likely that the Chinese language will play a major role in shaping its future, and the importance of Chinese for business will grow.
Even if this trend already has you as a businessperson thinking about how to learn the Chinese language, you probably know that learning Chinese as an English speaker is notoriously difficult. It might even have you reconsidering why you should learn Chinese at all.
You can think about this as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, learning Chinese is a demanding undertaking that requires a lot of time and effort. On the other hand, owing to the very challenge that learning Chinese represents, not many of your competitors who are native English speakers will have the advantage of knowing Chinese, either. However, if you put in the time needed to acquire Chinese language proficiency, you will be a standout who is well positioned to reap benefits that your competition simply can’t reach.
Here are some of the benefits of learning Chinese that you can expect to enjoy.
Expand Your Business Network
There are a lot of Chinese speakers in the world. According to Ethnologue, there are roughly 1.117 billion speakers of Mandarin Chinese, and of those, about 918 million are native speakers. Those stats make Mandarin Chinese the second most spoken language in the world as well as the language with the greatest number of native speakers. While most of these speakers reside in China, Chinese speakers have also formed communities around the globe. These are all potential contacts with whom you can personally do business—if only you can communicate with them.
With Chinese language skills, you will be able to navigate the vast global Chinese linguistic community to meet new business partners, clients, and customers. Learning Chinese for business can teach you how to speak Chinese with confidence in both professional and casual venues, setting both you and your business up with new networking opportunities that others can’t access.
This is not just about language but also about culture. An education in Chinese will allow you to socialize with Chinese speakers in more natural settings and establish cordial relations that can lead to future business proposals and collaborations. It will provide you with cross-cultural competencies that will impress your interlocutors and help you avoid committing a cultural faux pas that you might otherwise be unaware of. You can also demonstrate your seriousness and respect for your commerce by showing your commitment to learning how to communicate with potential business partners in their native tongue. Once you’ve established a solid rapport with a native Chinese speaker, you can benefit from their own business networks, capital, and know-how.
Adapt to the Global Economy
One of the biggest reasons to learn Chinese is that you will be able to do better business with Chinese firms. It’s not news that China is a major player making waves in the global economy. China’s economy is the second largest in the world according to nominal GDP, representing about 16.34% of the entire global economy. China was also the only major economy to get through the tumultuous year of 2020 with an actual increase in GDP.
As China’s economy evolves, more opportunities continue to avail themselves to businesspeople looking to grow their businesses. Some highlights from the US-China Business Council’s 2017 report Understanding the US-China Trade Relationship include the following:
- China’s middle-class consumers are growing at a rapid pace and are expected to reach a population of 160 million by 2025;
- China has been the third largest market for US goods and services, purchasing $165 billion of goods and services from the US in 2015;
- China continues to form an integral piece of the global supply chain and has allowed companies like Apple, GM, and Ford to compete at international levels; and
- Chinese companies are investing more in the US, putting $14.8 billion in the US in 2015.
It’s no wonder why working with China looks so attractive.
If you learn Chinese for business, you can apply your language skills to take advantage of China’s central place in the global economy. With your capacity to interface and network with Chinese business people, you can facilitate plugging your business into China’s lucrative industries and markets.
And while new business connections are invaluable, there are some other perks to knowing Chinese, especially if you’re already doing—or would like to do—business in China. You can run your business, hold meetings, and attend conferences with Chinese speakers while minimizing the involvement of intermediaries like translators. You can also directly access knowledge and information provided by Chinese language websites, newspapers, TV programs, and books, giving yourself advantageous access to critical resources to plan your next moves. You would also be well positioned to localize your products, services, and digital content to attract Chinese speaking consumers and markets.
Get Your Edge in International Business with Chinese for Business
The Chinese language is an important tool for networking and remaining competitive in the global marketplace. For the savvy businessperson who already has some experience with Chinese under their belt, learning Chinese for business is a powerful next step.
Chinese business language can help you specialize your language skills and tailor them to your specific industry. Focusing your studies specifically on Chinese for business will equip you with the specific cultural and linguistic vocabulary you need to speak intelligently about your business and interests with Chinese speakers. What you choose to do with this opportunity—whether in China or elsewhere around the globe—is ultimately left to you.
About the Author
Daniel Nalesnik is the founder of Hack Chinese, a technology platform helping leading Mandarin language schools grow. Daniel moved to China in 2009 for a year of full-time Mandarin immersion at Peking University (in Beijing) and Fudan University (in Shanghai). In the years since he has worked with teachers throughout China to discover what learning methods are most impactful for Mandarin Chinese learners. This experience inspired Daniel to found Hack Chinese, a spaced-repetition platform for learning Mandarin Chinese.