Are We Facing a Bilingual Future That Includes Mandarin?

Is there a possibility Mandarin (one of the many Chinese dialects) will become a “global lingua franca” or a language which can easily be a second language that bridge international borders? While the number of Chinese speakers on the planet more than doubles that of English speakers, the language itself is overly complex in its pronunciation matrix. The same word, with different emphasis, can take on several different meanings. This would make it difficult, say for a French native speaker to use Mandarin in a conversation with a Portuguese speaker also using Mandarin. Their native tongues would naturally skew the words in different ways, causing the conversation to go off-track rather quickly.

Although English has long been touted as a complicated language to learn, as far as languages go, it is very neutral. Nearly all other languages spoken across Europe have gender qualities built in. As English is absent of these, using it as a common language becomes easier, especially from a cultural perspective.

However when you watch any future-based television show, chances are you will see characters easily conversing between English and some form of Chinese quite easily. Take Firefly for example, a popular cult-classic Sci-Fi show with a large following. The main characters regularly use Mandarin to emphasize points of their sentences, label their merchandise, and often to curse at one another. This future-thinking theory is centered in economics as China has been on an upward trend of economic growth for the past several decades with no end in sight. Television writers naturally carry this idea forward a few hundred years and, bam, you have an English / Chinese bilingual culture.

However the prospect of this becoming a reality is slim. Even China-based businesses use English as their primary language when conducting business dealings, especially with other non-Chinese companies. It appears that the early spread of the British Empire has had long-lasting effects on the way we live, and will live in the future.

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