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China’s Language Policy Goes Global

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Twenty years ago, hardly anyone outside of China and Taiwan gave any thought to Chinese. Though spoken by a whole lot of people in a rapidly developing country, the language was seen as obscure, possibly nearly unlearnable. Nowadays, however, Mandarin Chinese language instruction worldwide is experiencing huge growth. Increasingly, Chinese is not just being taught in elite U.S. secondary and tertiary schools, it is also being spoken more in areas where China has secured access to key natural resources, like Australia, Kazakhstan and sub-Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile, Mandarin has also eclipsed all other varieties of Chinese as the premier language of China. And despite the huge amount of economic development China has carried out in its minority areas, ethnic-based flare-ups continue to persist in regions like Tibet and Xinjiang. In all of these cases, language identity and Chinese language policy is key to understanding events. ...

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