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2021-12-27 17:50:25

Chinese and English: can one language replace another?

Chinese and English: can one language replace another?

Recently, there has been a growing conviction among parents that Chinese will supplant English and become the most popular international language. The number of people wishing to attend Chinese courses has increased dramatically in recent years, and in 2019, the Ministry of Education even introduced the Chinese language into the program of the Unified State Exam.

China in the international market

It is often said that China is called the "factory of the world". This is not surprising: the country produces 25% of all goods on Earth, for which the United States often imposes new sanctions on Chinese technology giants. The car market is slowly but surely replenished with Chinese models. Even the media, without ceasing, discuss China's international policy on all channels.

More and more signs in the capitals of Russia began to be duplicated not only in English, but also in Chinese, so that it would be convenient and comfortable for numerous tourists. Before the pandemic began, 195,000 Chinese citizens flew to Moscow every year. However, even with such a large flow of Chinese, Russians are unlikely to ever use Chinese instead of English as an international language for communication and a main subject for study in schools.

A language that doesn't exist

In Germany, residents speak German, in Britain in English, in France in French. But even in such small European countries, far from the capitals, dialects with their own local rules appear. Now imagine the huge China, which covers an area of 9 millionm2 and is the third largest country in the world after Russia and Canada! It is extremely difficult to maintain a single language in such conditions.

The Chinese are the oldest nation with a long history. And five thousand years ago, there was no connection between different parts of the country, so there was no unity in the language. In the Middle Kingdom, 10 different dialects are spoken, united by a common script. And despite the attempts of modern cultural and political figures to bring them to one common thing, this will happen not in dozens or even in hundreds of years.

Modern China is a country with international prestige. The leadership strives to preserve the integrity of the people, so that all languages, except the state language, are considered dialects. The official language in China is Putonghua. In Taiwan, it is called gonyui,and among the English it is known as Mandarin. The basis of this language is the dialect of the northern plains. It is mandarin who is taught in schools and used in the media. In Hong Kong and Macau, most of the population speaks Cantonese. Mandarin is taught abroad, so when you arrive in hong Kong, you may not understand the locals like they do.

The only thing that unites languages is writing: in writing, everyone uses the same hieroglyphs, but they read them differently. And how can a language that is not spoken by all the inhabitants of the country fully become international?

Medium of use

Chinese is the official language of three countries: China, Taiwan and Singapore. At the same time, Singapore and 53 other countries scattered in different parts of the world consider English one of the official languages. Shakespeare's language is spoken even in cold Antarctica.

Difficulty level

Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to learn. Unlike English or another European language, it has tones: from the correct "sung" word, its meaning will change. So, the word four in the wrong tone can be confused with the word death. In addition, in China there is no alphabet in our understanding: instead of letters in Chinese, hieroglyphs are used, which can mean not just a word, but whole phrases. Each hieroglyph has its own meaning, so they must be memorized separately. By the way, even they in different parts of the country can change their spelling!

In the 1960s, the governments of China and Singapore unified the graphic writing of characters, but in Taiwan such a reform was refused. So the Taiwanese texts, as well as some hong Kong ones, almost no one will be able to read immediately without preparation.


English-speaking culture has seeped into many cultures of the world. Slang words, "Anglicisms" have replenished the Russian language: selfie, target. Most films have been shot and translated into English, even video games are created in this language, and in the field of science almost 95% of all works are written in an international language. But to such a large-scale influence, English went long and sometimes painfully, displacing French and Latin. The only place where English has lost its power is space: on the ISS, everyone should be able to communicate on Russian.

In China, everything national does not leave the country. Films quickly leave the box office, books are not very popular abroad, and music is so rarely heard. The Chinese with great difficulty share their achievements with the world, so this country remains a mystery to this day.

Openness in the opposite direction

The Chinese are always happy with new knowledge, foreign languages are very much in demand among the local population. European teachers receive huge money here for their services, and Russian is studied here in 160 universities. As in other countries of the world, among the Chinese there is a huge number of fans of the culture of Japan and Korea (anime, dramas, K-pop).

Knowing Chinese is cool, but English will do a lot more good. It is unlikely that the language of the Celestial Empire will ever be spoken all over the world. So the study of English was, is and continues to be one of the main tasks of modern schoolchildren and students.

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Egor Eremeev
Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Westminster University (Business & Management), London.
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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