[photopress:MBA_learn_Mandarin.jpg,full,alignright]Worldwide, about 40 million people are learning Mandarin, China’s official spoken language and its most common dialect. Nearly 100,000 foreigners went to China to study Mandarin in 2006, more than twice the number five years earlier.
The rise of China has clear parallels with the rise of the United States in the past century, when it was a magnet for people around the world, said James McGregor, author of the best-selling book ‘One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China.’
‘This is a continental-sized economy being built from scratch,’ he said. ‘Everyone used to go to America because it was the global happening place. Now this is the global happening place.’
McGregor, a former journalist who runs a business consulting firm in Beijing, advises those who want to head to China to bring an open mind, a sense of adventure and an appreciation for the absurd. The other key to making it? Solid language skills.
He said, ‘If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you need to sink into the culture. Any 20-year-old American thinking of doing business in China one day and not thinking of learning Mandarin is not thinking.’
Not all of this is borne out by real experience.
The difference in salary offered to an expat in Shanghai with Mandarin fluency is not significantly different to one without. Other skills can be more important.
A recent survey showed that an extra year at university learning business skills ensured a larger starting income than a year’s intensive study of Mandarin. Plainly a subject in need of more study.
Source: International Herald Tribune