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Prime Minister Cameron Appeals to British Students to Learn Chinese

The Guardian reported on December 5, 2013 that David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, appealed to British students to abandon traditional language lessons such as French and turn to learn the language of the future – Mandarin Chinese.

Cameron, after a three-day visit to China, expressed that British students should look beyond the traditional focus on French and German and concentrate on learning the language of rising China. In order to be more convincing, he also quoted the former South African President Nelson Mandela: “if you talk to [a man] in his language that goes to his heart.”

Cameron said: “I want Britain linked up to the world’s fastest-growing economies – and that includes our young people learning the language to deal with tomorrow’s business deals. By the time the children born today leave school, China is set to be the world’s largest economy. So it’s time to look beyond the traditional focus on French and German and get many more children learning Mandarin.”

Cameron added that an agreement had been reached between the British Council and Hanban to double the number of Chinese language assistants in the UK by 2016 and increase funds to schools to reduce the cost of training teachers to teach the subject. In addition, 60 principals from the UK will be invited to go on study visits to China in 2014.

According to a report by the British Council, Mandarin Chinese will become one of the five most important languages that can affect the UK’s prosperity, security and influence in the future. Yet only one percent of adults in Britain are fluent enough to conduct a conversation in the language. In 2013, there were only 3,000 GCSE candidates took the Mandarin exam, which was far less than the figures of German and French.