THE importance of learning Mandarin was highlighted by Perak delegate Datuk Dr Wan Norashikin Wan Noordin at the recent UMNO General Assembly.
She is not only pragmatic but also farsighted to see the crucial role China will be performing in the global economy.
To build a closer relationship with China so as to enhance the existing bilateral trade, we need more high calibre Malaysians who are proficient in Mandarin to carry out the task.
China has a rich make up of almost a third of the world’s luxury shoppers, up from only 2% around the turn of the millennium.
This is one of the reasons why more Westerners realise the benefits of learning Mandarin so that they can explore the Chinese market more effectively.
In fact, many Western professionals who work in China are not only proficient in Mandarin, they have also blended into Chinese society and have made this great country their second home.
In 2001, I was given an opportunity to implement a hotel system in Shanghai since I was the only senior executive in the group proficient in English.
Like Dr Wan Norashikin, I saw the benefits of learning Mandarin more than four decades ago.
As I wasn’t educated in a Chinese school, I learnt Chinese through listening, singing and copying Mandarin song lyrics at the age of 17. It wasn’t an easy task but it was a small accomplishment that I truly cherished in my life.
During my short stint in Shanghai, I noticed the vast untapped opportunity waiting to be explored in this highly populated but prosperous country.
However, one needs to understand the Chinese culture and business philosophy well, before any attempt to venture into this flourishing country.
Being proficient in English and Mandarin, Malaysians are always looked upon as better business partners by many mainland Chinese entrepre-neurs.
As opined by Dr Martin Jacques, a British journalist and author of “When China Rules the World”, China is going to change the world by virtue of its rapid economic growth supported by a huge population.
Goldman Sachs had initially projected that China would have a larger economy than the United States by 2027, but it subsequently changed its projection to 2020. In four years’ time, China will play a bigger role on the world stage.
With the ability to communicate fluently in Mandarin, we will still benefit even if we don’t have the financial resources to invest in China.
As many local multinational companies have business dealings with China, you stand a better opportunity to be employed if you are proficient in Mandarin.
Let’s not overlook the great potential in the tourism business. If we can attract the rich Chinese travellers to visit Malaysia in great numbers, not only the tour guides will reap the benefits. The entire supply chain will enjoy better earnings.
While learning Mandarin will improve our children’s prospects, I urge parents not to overlook the importance of English. Children are capable of picking up more than two languages simultaneously without much of a problem.
I recall that my daughter took less than a year to communicate in Bahasa Malaysia fluently with her friends, apart from being fluent in Mandarin and English, when she was little.