Mandarin Chinese At A Glance

  • Most spoken language in the world
  • 960 million native speakers // One billion total speakers
  • An official language of China, Taiwan, Singapore, and the United Nations

The significance of Mandarin Chinese cannot be understated in today’s interconnected economy. Considered the lingua franca of the Chinese world, it is the most spoken language—as well as the language of the world’s second largest economy. Alongside its status as an official language of three countries and territories and the United Nations, communities in 12 other countries across Asia also speak Chinese.

Mandarin is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, written language in the world with its characters dating back 3,000 years. Considering that 12 percent of the global population speaks Mandarin Chinese as their native language, knowledge of Chinese will open the door to a culture with over one billion speakers and a chance to make an impact on some of the most pressing issues of our time.


The demand for the Chinese language is growing—with no signs of a slowing in the future. Although China is the world’s most populous country, America’s largest trading partner, and the second largest economy, Americans lag far behind in their understanding of the most important country in the 21st-century global affairs. And the gap is only widening: Between 300 million and 400 million Chinese students are learning English, but just 200,000 Americans are learning Chinese.

Chinese is not just the language of international business and a growing economy; it’s also a language critical to navigating the defining global issues of our time like cyber security, energy and climate change, maritime law, and human rights.

Even President Obama has chimed in on the need for Americans to speak Chinese: “If our countries are going to do more around the world, then speaking each other’s language, truly understanding each other is a good place to start.”


What can you do with Chinese?

  • Serve as an advisor to the China-U.S. Energy Efficiency Alliance
  • Become an educator for low-income Chinese heritage communities
  • Report on Chinese fashion trends and design at magazine in Shanghai