MUMBAI: Till a few years ago, it was said, you could talk to just about anyone in the world if you knew English, Spanish and French. The dramatic rise of China has seen Mandarin, slowly but surely, enter this universal league of languages. The growing economic and cultural clout of the Chinese has prompted many schools in the city to offer Mandarin, some from as early as primary years.
Three-year-old Raina Kothari of Malabar Hill, who attends Sunflower Nursery, has been learning Mandarin for two months as her mother feels it is a "universal language" that Raina will require as she grows, applies to college and later looks for a job.
Four-and-a-half-year-old Srimoyee Mukherjee goes to Arya Vidya Mandir, Bandra, for the rest of the week, but come Sunday morning, she and three other kids, get tutored in Mandarin.
四岁半的 Srimoyee Mukherjee 在AryaVidya寺庙，
When Srimoyee's mother passed out from school in 1995, she studied French and knows it flakily. "But say 15 years from now, it looks like Mandarin will hold a person in good stead. So I am exposing my child to the language," said Prema.
The power of language is often perceived to be proportional to the economic strength of a country. So it seems with China too, where novelist Mo Yan was announced the literature Nobel winner on Wednesday.
Dhirubhai Ambani School students Neil (9) and Nayantara Kothari (12), children of a top banker, are picking up Mandarin as their parents feel that China will continue to be an economic powerhouse. "Apart from the fact that our kids will have a competitive advantage over others, they will be acquainted with the rich ancient culture and its language," said their mother Vandana Batra.
For many actually, it is less about delighting in the language and more about the fact that Mandarin is becoming synonymous with the language of business. "I am learning Mandarin because my parents told me that it is the language of the future to do business," a student of Oberoi International School told Lu Kong, his Mandarin instructor. The school is offering Mandarin as an after-school activity for students upwards of Class III. "We have started offering Mandarin from this year and the response has been fine," said principal Vladimir Kuskovski.
In August, the CBSE board offered to train teachers in Mandarin so that the language could be taught in schools. "It is the next world language," said Nalini Pinto, principal of NSS Hillspring International School that offers the first level of Mandarin.
Several other schools like BIS and Podar International have also introduced Mandarin, with help from Inchin Closer, a firm that teaches the language. Nazia Vasi, the firm's founder, says: "I teach several school students whose parents know that this is an important language. If you know Hindi and Mandarin, you are talking to 3.5 billion people in the world."
The trend has caught up outside the city too. In Bangalore, Ni Hao (Hello) has had some students attend Mandarin classes with their parents. "There are Indians who want to migrate to China and want their children to know the language. And there are some who are expatriates, who want their kids to be fluent in the language," said Mahesh K, coordinator of the centre.