Question: What is the most spoken language in the world?
Answer: While English and Spanish make a decent showing, Chinese makes them look like half-pints. Mandarin, or Modern Standard Chinese, is the native tongue of almost one billion people. There are several variations of the Chinese language, each spoken by millions of individuals.
As the global community comes closer together in the coming years, people who can speak and write Chinese will find themselves in high demand.
The Chinese major isn’t to be underestimated. Don’t think this is anything like studying a romance language, which offers the benefit of (almost) the same alphabet. With Chinese, you don’t even get an alphabet. Students majoring in the language must complete intensive classes in written and spoken Chinese, as well as additional work in Chinese culture, language, and history. Confucianism, history of the People’s Republic of China, Maoism, and the subtle art of calligraphy will probably be offered as part of the overall curriculum. Most Chinese programs also recommend or require students to study abroad. If you want to major in Chinese, plan on spending copious hours memorizing vocabulary and the minute differences of inflection that sometimes mean the difference between saying “Hello. How are you?” and “I poisoned that tea you’re drinking.”
If you are fortunate enough to go to a school that offers Chinese as a language, well . . . you know what to do. Any training in foreign languages will help you become accustomed to college-level language study. Courses in political science and Asian history will also be useful. Art could prove to be a practical thing to study as well since training the eye to observe delicate distinctions will be very useful when reading and writing calligraphy.