Tue | Jan 22, 2019

LETTER OF THE DAY - Replace French with Mandarin

Published:Tuesday | September 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir: I know I am going to get a lot of flak for this from our French teachers, but I think the time has come for us to start preparing our people to deal with present and future global realities. One of these preparations is to shift our priorities away from weakening interests like French and strengthening those towards China. As such, we should start replacing the teaching of French with Mandarin, the language of the Chinese, in our schools.

China is slated to become the world's largest economy, surpassing the United States, within the next few years, according to many experts. According to the latest data from STATIN, in 2011, China was already our fourth largest trading partner. China is a rising global power. By 2011, France had fallen off our list of top 10 trading partners.

China has become the workshop of the world and we in Jamaica have already begun to feel the country's rising power. The great logistics hub that everybody is talking about that is expected to save us will be built by China. Even in an indirect way, China is proving to be our lifeline. We rely heavily on the United States; however, China is America's largest creditor. So, indirectly, China is our largest creditor. China's role in our lives will only become even more important. The same cannot be said for the French world.

France and the other French-speaking neighbours that we have are becoming increasingly irrelevant. I can understand Spanish being taught in our schools as we are surrounded by Spanish-speaking countries, but why do we need French? Our only French-speaking neighbour, Haiti, isn't much of a country at all. So why emphasise French in our schools?

It is true that France is still a major country, but she and the rest of the French-speaking world are declining, in relation to the rise of China. Apart from having nuclear weapons and an ageing aircraft carrier, what else is France's claim to greatness? She was defeated in World War Two, she was whipped by Vietnam, and she was kicked out of Algeria. Certainly, in relation to China, the French-speaking world's relevance is weakening.

We must start now to position ourselves to take increased advantage of the soon-to-become world's largest economy - by teaching Chinese languages in our schools. Our business people must be taught how to appreciate China more. This certainly will be better facilitated if more of us can get a better understanding of Chinese languages.

With the limited resources that we have and the realities that we will face very soon, a shift away from French is the better option. We must pull ourselves out of the past and start looking more to the East.