Featured expert: Guo-Qiang Liu, Associate Professor of Chinese, Deakin University
How many speakers of Mandarin Chinese exist worldwide?
‘Native: 873 million. As a second language: 178 million. Total: 1.051 billion.’
In which countries is Mandarin Chinese spoken?
‘Official language: Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Taiwan. In daily life: in every continent among the Chinese diaspora.’
What are the greatest career opportunities available to speakers of Mandarin Chinese?
‘China has been a driving force in global economic development, and it is Australia’s largest trading partner. There is a great demand for people who can speak Mandarin, particularly in the business, law, tourism, education and banking industries.
‘Mandarin is also the second most important language in the business world, only after English. The ability to speak Mandarin will make you stand out in the employment market, because of the demand for Mandarin speakers and because being able to speak this difficult language is considered an exceptional achievement.’
What are some challenges for English speakers when learning Mandarin Chinese?
‘The writing system – Chinese characters which are pictographically based rather than alphabetically/phonetically based, which is what English speakers are used to.
‘Tones – Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language. In order to differentiate meaning, the same syllable can be pronounced with different tones.
‘Grammar, sentence structure and word ordering – they are to some degree different from those of English, so English speakers need to learn a new grammatical system.’
Why do you believe more people should learn Mandarin Chinese?
‘Chinese is the most spoken first language in the world and it is widely used throughout the world. Learning Chinese allows you to communicate with a large number of people and understand their culture, which has about 5000 years of history.’
Want to know more about studying Mandarin Chinese?
Featured expert: Eugenia Demuro, Senior Lecturer in Spanish and Latin American Studies, Deakin University
How many speakers of Spanish exist worldwide?
‘Spanish is a major international language with more than 400 million speakers on five continents.’
In which countries is Spanish spoken?
‘It is the national or official language of more than 20 countries throughout the Americas and in Europe: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Although not an official language, Spanish is also spoken in the United States, Belize, Andorra and Gibraltar.
‘Spanish is the third most widely spoken language in the world (after Mandarin and English).’
What are the greatest career opportunities available to speakers of Spanish?
‘Spanish language skills are strategic to Australia’s growing interests in Latin America, and are important across a range of international arenas in diplomacy, defence, security, and trade-related fields.
‘Spanish can also be an important asset in many careers, with graduates finding employment across a range of sectors in education, international relations and international studies, development and aid, and commerce.
‘Studying Spanish can complement discipline-studies, and can open doors to career paths not accessible without a knowledge of the language and culture, for example in arts, literature, translation and interpreting, publishing, sports, film, television or media in the Spanish-speaking world.’
What are some challenges for English speakers when learning Spanish?
‘The biggest challenge for English speakers is understanding points of difference in grammar, and in particular, learning to correctly conjugate verbs and to use and master the subjunctive.
‘Spanish is relatively easy and accessible to English speakers, as it shares both an alphabet and hundreds if not thousands of cognate words (words that are relatively the same in both languages). As Spanish is a phonetic language, it is also relatively easy to learn to pronounce words correctly and to make oneself understood.’
Why do you believe more people should learn Spanish?
‘Spanish is a global language. In addition to the over 400 million native speakers, millions of people speak Spanish as a second-language.
‘For English speakers it is relatively easy to learn (when compared to languages that have a different alphabet and script). Spanish, opens up so much of the world and can be a field of study and discipline in its own right, or complement any other discipline or career path.’
Want to know more about studying Spanish?
Ready to become bilingual or multilingual? Find out more about the opportunities to study humanities, social sciences and languages at Deakin.