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Mandarin: World’s popular language yet to be accepted in Africa and beyond

By JAPTHETH OGILA | Updated Thu, April 20th 2017 at 19:31 GMT +3

They are known to be aggressive, conservative, industrious and harbouring tremendous business acumen. When talking of Chinese people, almost every person in Africa can give a testimony that they have thriving business cultures.

Nairobi’s Thika Super High way and the Standard Gauge Railway which is still under construction will live to tell the tales of Asians that have exported the skills top help others develop, but also reap a fortune.

But as the Chinese business consciousness remains on sporadic rise, it is the Chinese language, Mandarin, that has suffered mixed eventualities.  The world marks the UN Chinese Language Day in the wake of time that most countries have not embraced mandarin as alternative language. On the flipside, Chinese products such as mobile phones, computers, watches and many other products have been popular in the market.

According to a report on culture by the British Broadcasting Corporation, mandarin is mainly spoken in Asian countries such as China, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan. There is disproportionality between the Chinese influence in other continents such as South America, Africa and Europe and the growth and spread of mandarin.

The leading language

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However, Chinese language is still ranked as most widely spoken language. Ethnologue, which is a leading website analyzing popularity of languages ranks mandarin as the most spoken language with 1.2 Billion speakers around the world.  Spanish comes second with 437 Million, and then English with 372 Million, Arabic at 295 Million and French comes at position 14 with 76 million. The report by Ethnologue depicts that high population in the mandarin-speaking Asian countries could be the contributing factor to the dominance of the language, but not how people fancy it.

Stumbling block

Given their nose for business prosperity, China has in the past made initiatives to popularize mandarin in the English speaking parts of the world. Apart from giving scholarships such as Chinese University Program and Asean University Network, China has tried to introduce certain mandarin lessons in countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Nonetheless, in 2015, South African government faced a rebuttal from education experts who argued that mandarin is difficult, time consuming and would disrupt the educational system. The same opposition was faced by the Zimbabwean government, where educational analysts considered it to be an imperialist tendency from the Chinese government.

Statistics according to Ethnologue

China 1.2 Billion Speakers

Spanish 438 Million speakers

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English 372Million Speakers

Arabic 295 Million Speakers

German 78 Million Speakers

French 76 Million Speakers

World Population 7 Billion



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