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Could Mandarin Become a Lingua Franca for Global Business?

August 13, 2015

If you want to make an great impression when speaking on a global stage, begin your speech in the native tongue. Fluency in a local dialect can capture a crowd's attention and earn you brownie points with many of those in attendance. Recently, while on a business trip to Beijing, Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg gained worldwide attention when he did a question and answer session in Mandarin. And, although the unique high and low tones resonated with the local crowd, Mandarin isn't a likely choice to become the Global Linqua Franca. The fact that it spoken by over a billion people is quickly outweighed by the language's requirement for multiple pronunciations (or tonal inflections) of the same word to mean different things.

So the most widely spoken language on the planet, which doubles the number of English speakers, does not appear to be destined to become everyone's second language. Thanks in part to the spread of the British Empire, more cultures around the world speak English as either their first or second language. Plus, English dialects have become increasing popular in songs, films, sports and especially technologies. Use an online interpreter and try converting "hashtag big dog" to Chinese or Ukranian. You'll get "hashtag大狗" and "hashtag великого собаку", respectively.

Not only do English speakers typically coin the latest high-tech terminology, it is an inherently neutral language as languages go. There are no class, generational or gender distinctions in nouns and verbs that are so common to many other languages. Believe it or not, English is more politically correct for a lingua franca than anyother trade language; and even Isis uses English to spread Jihadist propaganda across many foreign borders. Of a negative note, although America's economic and social influences will continue to push English as a global language, American's are falling behind other nations in learning a second or third language. So, "开始学习" ... in case you don't speak Mandarin that's "start learning".

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Thank you very much for making our World Congress an outstanding success. I have a special thank you for you and your team of interpreters. I know it was a huge undertaking, but you made it seem so effortless. The simultaneous interpretation was excellent. Your staff was extremely professional and patient with the attendees. I am looking forward to working with you and your group in the near future.
- T. Washington, Convention Logistics Manager

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