Is Chinese the new French?

February 16, 2008, [MD]

Although it was Eurocentric, I like to think back at the time when all serious scholars in Europe were expected to know at least French (and by association perhaps Italian and Spanish), German, English and some Greek and Latin. When you read a book, and there are frequent citations in those languages, that are not translated. It is the same thing now, reading a book about the early history of literature in Indonesia, with none of the Indonesian citations translated.

With the Chinese gaining in geo-political strength every day, that language seems well-poised to become an important strategic asset as well. I already knew that Kevin Rudd, the new prime minister of Australia, speaks Chinese - he was a diplomat there - and it makes sense that you want a prime minister of Australia that speaks Chinese (and seems much more open to the outside world than John Howard ever was).

And through a French article a friend of mine sent me, I just learnt that the head of the African Union is half-African, half-Chinese and speaks Mandarin. Jean Ping from Gabon, son of a Chinese trader and a Gabonese mother, was chosen for the position on February 1st. And with the greatly increasing Chinese trade and investment with China, he is likely to be quite busy.


Stian HĂ„klev February 16, 2008 Toronto, Canada
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