When people say that learning Chinese is hard they mean it. Even my Japanese friend Oki Matsumoto says that learning Chinese is harder for him than learning English. There seems to be something impenetrable about Chinese that goes beyond the writing itself which is already incredibly complicated from people coming from English, Spanish, Arabic, French, German, and other major languages of the planet. This is one of the reasons that when the Chinese get to be the number one economic power in the world, something that they will probably achieve in purchasing power terms within 10 years and in nominal terms within 20 years they will have a very hard time being the number one cultural power in the world. As opposed to what happened when England “ruled the world” or now that USA “rules the world”, when the Chinese “rule the world” we will all be ruled by people whose language most cannot understand. Cultural moments as the Chinese version of Happy Birthday will have a very difficult time to spread around the world as nobody will be able to say the words.

Last night however I found out that the Chinese are very aware of how extremely complicated it is to learn Mandarin and they have a plan. My friends Dave Sifry, Tariq Krim, Alexander Straub, Rodrigo Sepulveda, Jack Hidary and another 20 of us became vaware of it when we went to Alices Bar in Dalian for drinks, a night club around the corner from the Furama Hotel. As we went in this bar seemed to have very unusual characteristics. One is that the only Chinese people at the bar were the waiters. Secondly that the public seemed to be made of a very young United Nations with most nations represented but China. So extremely intrigued we started asking around and found out that Alice´s Bar is the place in which the foreign students that the Chinese government brings from all over the world to study Chinese get together. During the evening we spoke with a Bulgarian woman who told us how this education works. Especially the woman. Diana (who is 22, smart and hot and on Facebook) was studying literature at the university in Sofia and she was recruited by the Chinese government to come to China with 4 years of studying paid to be a Chinese interpretor. She was very attracted by this proposal and left boyfriend, family, friends and last night was her third day in China with 4 years ahead of her. And she told us that the same was true (maybe not for the boyfriend part) for her Russian friends, and that there were Germans, Mexicans, and students of many other nationalities as the Chinese prepared a new generation of people who will help the rest of us understand what the future leading nation of the planet is saying. Now as far as culture is concerned we will see what happens 30 years from now but considering the enormous amount of American and European culture that is consumed here I have a hard time seeing what type of Chinese Culture the rest of us will get. When you walk around Dalian the only time that you are reminded that you are in China is when you eat. And Chinese food has already made it all over the world. In any case if you are interested in learning Chinese and are 25 or under go to your local Chinese embassy to find out about this plan. Maybe you will become the culture broker of the new generation as Diana and her friends will.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Killy_from_China on September 8, 2007  · 

I think it is useless to do prevision about China in 10 or 20 years… as everything go so quickly, and China face so many problems (polution, corruption, education, health, culture not always adapted to a free developed economy where people need to think by themself and take responsabilities, etc…).

So according to you China will be westernized, and it will be one way culture exchange… If Chinese people read you they will cry, as they often tell me that in the future the international language will be Chinese (what I never believed as Chinese learn more english, than foreigner learn Chinese).
I personaly think that it is not only one way culture exchange, but that the western influence is stronger than the chiense influence… Will it change?
But whatever, Chinese people will never been as American, as French/Spanish are not like American….
886 (byebye in “chinese internet/SMS”)

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chinglish on September 10, 2007  · 

I like the Chinese-style English and the 2008 Beijing Olympics have ties, the Chinese-English Chinglish very interesting

3.0 rating

alex on September 17, 2007  · 

I guess when you walk less than 100 metres from the Furama to Alice Bar it is easy to forget one’s in China, especially as it’s down just 1 street in the centre of the hotel district.

It’s interesting that you thought Alice Bar has few Chinese customers though, when the vast majority of their profit comes from the private rooms with predominantly Chinese business customers.

Learning Chinese is somewhat tough, but get Western children writing Chinese characters, listening to Chinese TV, for 8 hours per day, and they’ll be able to achieve a decent Chinese ability pretty quickly.

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