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Will Mandarin Chinese replace English as the next world language?
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Mandarin is too difficult

Mandarin's writing system, with its 20,000+ characters in a modern dictionary, is too complex to achieve a widely used lingua franca status around the globe. In contrast, English is much easier.


Mandarin is a notoriously difficult language for English speakers.[1][2] Even as many linguists and businesspeople see the possibility of Mandarin becoming a more widely used, Mandarin will likely never become a global language because it is too difficult to learn.

The Argument

The main difficulty is that Mandarin uses a written character system. Languages like English, Russian, and Hindi use an alphabetical system, which helps users learn the language easier as speaking, reading, and writing in these languages are related, intertwined processes. With Mandarin's character system, however, writing and reading must be mastered separately from speaking and listening.[3] Mandarin's written character system will hinder its spread as a global lingua franca in a world dependent on technology. Technology for writing and the QWERTY keyboard are designed for the Roman alphabet. Global written media in the QWERTY keyboard is not compatible with the 2,000+ Chinese characters considered necessary for basic literacy in Mandarin.[4] In terms of a written language, English is much easier and adaptable.[5]

Counter arguments

No language is too structurally difficult to become a lingua franca. Languages become widely used due to the language becoming economically or politically necessary or through becoming culturally significant.[6] In fact, though Mandarin's character system and tones are difficult to learn, Mandarin has several features that make it much easier to learn compared to European languages. Mandarin does not have subject/verb agreement, plurals, conjugations, or tenses.[7] People do not have to fluently read and write Mandarin for it to be widely spoken People around the world do not fluently read and write English because they just use English as is necessary for their purposes, and English is still widely used.[8] Professor at the Flinders University College of Humanities Jeffrey Gil stated, "The inconsistencies and irregularities of English’s writing system show that linguistic properties alone do not determine whether a language becomes global. I conclude that a character-based writing system will not prevent Chinese attaining global language status."[9] Thanks to technological advances, written Mandarin is no longer a barrier to widespread Mandarin communication. Handwritten Mandarin is no longer a basic skill since smartphones and computers can generate characters from Pinyin Romanization or speech-to-text. Many Chinese people just use smartphone technology to communicate in written Mandarin.[3]



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Tuesday, 25 Aug 2020 at 18:55 UTC

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