The word “Chinese” collects all 200+ spoken languages/dialects in China and in Chinese communities scattered abroad.
People tend to assume that when you say “Chinese” you mean “Mandarin.” This is because “Mandarin Chinese” is the standard language of China and is the world’s most numerous spoken language in terms of native speakers. It’s also the most common language to learn right now for foreign learners of Chinese, compared to say, Hokkien or Cantonese. “Chinese” doesn’t necessarily only mean “Mandarin” but I hope it’s ok for me to assume in this case that it does.
The number of people learning Chinese is going to be a rough estimate since it’s hard to get an accurate number. We can get information from schools and universities but there are many learners that go the self-study route and it’s becoming more common to learn with the help of an online teacher these days. With that being said, the official figures suggest there are 50 million people learning Chinese (as of 6 years ago). These numbers may be optimistic and probably include people who merely express interest in it or simply try it as a hobby. However, the projected number by 2020 will be a rounded 1 million people in the US alone. Serious learners are on the rise, regardless.
These numbers have seen a jump in recent years. Learners have various reasons for choosing to study Chinese. These are the most common reasons why.
· Since China's economy grew 7 times as fast as America's over the past decade (316% growth vs. 43%) many people think that learning Chinese can be worthwhile for future business and opportunities. Career choices for foreigners working in conjunction with Chinese companies have increased drastically. Therefore, learners want to get a certification of their Chinese proficiency. The official government test to certify your ability is called the HSK.
· If you speak Mandarin, your brain makes new connections. Psychologists and neuroscientists confirmed that the Chinese language has different effects on the brain. Learners of Chinese find this benefit worthwhile and more alluring than other languages and their benefits.
· The possibility to make connections with nearly 1 billion people. Although that’s not feasible, the point is by learning Chinese it can open doors, make friends or business connections, or simply be able to understand a new culture and demographics of people is alluring to learners of Chinese.
If the idea of learning such a dynamic and rewarding language (I’m biased) is appealing to you set a goal and go for it. There are so many resources out there to help you join the community of Chinese language learners.