GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Mandarin is making quiet steady inroads in European education, with the Financial Times the latest media to focus on West facing East in the area of languages. The British newspaper, in a feature Monday 17 October, notes that Chinese has become the fourth major language, behind French, German and Spanish. In the US, “the rise is reflected in the number of students sitting SAT II standardized tests, up 50 per cent since 2001; Advanced Placement programmes run by the College Board have grown by more than 2.5 times. In Britain, Chinese A-level exam entries in England in Wales rose 36 per cent in 2011 alone, the fastest of any major language. With 3,237 candidates, one in 11 final-year language exams are now for Chinese.”
The Economist, in an article in November 2010, took a more restrained approach, noting that Russian and Japanese also had language course booms which turned out to be fads.
The Sydney Morning Herald in February 2011 pointed out that while Australian language programmes and enthusiasm may be strong for starting Chinese, there remains a paucity of students completing Chinese courses with true proficiency in the language.