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Spanish or Chinese in College?

terencterenc Registered User Posts: 1,128 Senior Member
edited August 2012 in Study Abroad
Which language would be more useful to take in college, Spanish or Chinese (Mandarin)?
Which would be more useful for the future and for life in general. I am interested in doing business in the future (hopefully in the tech industry).

Neither language would be extremely hard. I took Spanish in middle and high school for six years, so I'm pretty good but not fluent. With some study abroad I could become fluent.

However, I am of Chinese descent, but I am not fluent. My parents spoke some Chinese to me when I was young, so I sort of have an intuitive feel for it. I also took weekly Chinese classes for many years, but they were poorly taught. I can usually sort of understand what people are talking about in Chinese, but I can't really reply because my vocab is very limited.

Any ideas? I'm leaning towards Chinese right now, but someone told me that everyone in China is learning English now, but many Spanish speakers don't learn English.
Post edited by terenc on

Replies to: Spanish or Chinese in College?

  • runningfalconrunningfalcon Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    Take Chinese dawg!!! China is booming and if you know how to speak Chinese, you'll have a huge advantage over other ppl. Chinese is the way to go man :D
  • Dionysus58Dionysus58 - Posts: 799 Member
    Runningfalcon is mistaken, learning Chinese isn't much of an asset – Spanish opens up many more opportunities.
  • naivecandidenaivecandide Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    If you're looking to join the business world, Chinese would definitely be the language to learn. If you think about it, much of the economy/business scene is focusing on China at the moment.

    However, it is up to you. Maybe you can take Spanish in college and just pick up Chinese by practicing with your parents.
  • vienneselightsvienneselights Registered User Posts: 411 Member
    dude, you're asian.

    there's no question. learn chinese. being able to do business isn't just about the language - it's about being culturally accepted by the people you're doing business with
  • Dionysus58Dionysus58 - Posts: 799 Member
    This is not true at all. Virtually all of Chinese international business (and indeed quite a lot of its internal business) is conducted in English. The assumption that the Chinese language will grow in importance as China becomes more powerful is baseless and completely wrong. English is far too well established in China, so much so that many Chinese people do not speak their native language at work - not even to each other.

    By all means learn Chinese if you're interested it, I'm sure it can be very useful - but it's certainly no more useful than any other global language. OP: if you want to work in the tech industry, French and especially German would serve you better than Spanish or Chinese.
  • terencterenc Registered User Posts: 1,128 Senior Member
    hmm... why is French and German more useful for tech? From traveling in France and Germany, basically everyone knows English and is pretty good at it (even random people on the streets).

    I'm also considering not taking a language in college. Do you think it's possible (or even a good idea) to instead take a language after college through community college or something?
  • chinadadchinadad Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    @Dionysus58 You are completely mishaken. Also, I can tell you have never worked abroad. To drive home the point my son recently had an interview at Citibank Beijing and the lady could not speak English - the entire interview was in Chinese and she spoke about that the work would be in Chinese.
  • chinadadchinadad Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    @terenc Asian decent, trying to do business in the future and you're actually asking the question Spanish or Chinese?! vienneselights is quite on target, if you do not know Chinese it will be difficult to do business - everyone will look at your face and expect you to speak the language.
  • BlueJayBJBlueJayBJ Registered User Posts: 250 Junior Member
    As someone that has worked in major firms in Beijing especially in finance ALL WORK is done in english. Unless you work for a local firm which I have done before the only real multinationals where Chinese is needed is real estate. I have a friend at a multinational real estate company who is a foreigner just like me that can speak Chinese and was hired for that. But I have worked at consulting firms and ib firms in Beijing and even though I speak fluent Chinese, I never really needed it in the office space. So your son is either A lying to you or B you are one of those parents that think because his son can say Ni Hao Ma he is good in Chinese. I've met many parents that send their kids across the world to Beijing and Shanghai thinking that Chinese is the language of the future only to be in for a cruel shock that their kids Chinese means next to 0 when there are native speakers in both Chinese and English. To the OP it depends on your career. If you for example want to practice medicine spanish would be better consider all the immigrants that don't speak english and spanish is their native tongue. For people that claim China is the future because of the economy they must be quite dense or don't read the papers. The new "it" country now is brazil so of course everyone is rushing to learn Portuguese. As someone that is of Chinese descent learning Chinese might be a good idea just to get in touch with your heritage but unless you plan to live in China its not the best language to choose from. Chinadad has no clue what he is talking about. WHile this generation of businessman in China don't speak english that well, all their children are being schooled in dual language schools starting in kindergarden. China 's elite has already embraced english as the lingua franca.
    Example, About 2 years ago I met with a potential client at his manor. He spent more time asking me to talk with his son in order to gauge his son's progress. Why? Because as this man admitted to me English is the language of the world and he wants his son to prosper in it. This is a man that is a Princeling of the party and he even stated this. Yes multinational firms in Beijing want you to speak Chinese, but thats usually front office work. I myself when interviewing candidates have told them if they don't speak decent Chinese I will not hire them no matter what background they come from. But I've never ever heard of a multinational firm with human resources that don't speak english in China. And I have worked at Citi Beijing so I can tell you that Chinadad is full of it.
  • vienneselightsvienneselights Registered User Posts: 411 Member
    I think chinadad is trying to suggest that being accepted as 'one of us' is more important than speaking some random language. OP is asian, therefore he will have an easier time being accepted than a person of a different ethnicity (by easier time i mean he has a flying chance of it, versus none at all). Not taking advantage of that is silly. Business is done with people, not with dictionaries.
  • BlueJayBJBlueJayBJ Registered User Posts: 250 Junior Member
    Doesn't matter if he speaks good Chinese or not, he isn't a local. 3 years ago Goldman Sachs in Beijing looked to recruit a new director for the IBD. A Hong Kong Chinese, an ABC, and a BBC (british born chinese) were asked to interview. None were hired. The reason, they didn't understand the local business culture nor had the background to make a significant approach for mainland investments. China isn't the same as it was in 2000 when it was the wild west. Especially in private equity, tech, and research nationalism and a sense of we can do it ourselves now permeates. Chinese is a fascinating language, but if you really want to do tech stuff, languages such as hebrew, japanese, or even german with their high tech society and entrepreneurial spirit is quite well known. But honestly the China gold rush is over. The economy is more than cooling, the ISI economy is a temporary development paradigm that China is moving past too slowly and anyone that actually is still working in China will tell you that thinks aren't looking up. So please stop feeding people nonsense that Chinese is the golden language. In the 80s it was Japanese, 2000s it was Chinese, soon it will be Portuguese, Indonesian Bahasa, and Turkish.
  • Dionysus58Dionysus58 - Posts: 799 Member
    Thanks BlueJayBJ, you saved me writing a lengthy post - you are completely right.

    Terenc: French or German because they are long established global languages. They're the most important languages in Europe (after English) and both France and Germany have developed and growing tech industries.
  • terencterenc Registered User Posts: 1,128 Senior Member
    Yeah, I understand that French and German are great languages for tech work right now.
    I'm still probably going to go with Spanish or Chinese, because I have some background in both, so it's much easier to pick up.

    Actually what Chinadad said makes some sense. I guess in terms of heritage, learning Chinese would be better. I can barely speak to my grandparents, for example, which is embarrassing. I've realized that there's an assumption that if you look Chinese you can speak it. In my experience, most older Asian-American people assume I can speak it. This has led to some awkward moments... However this assumption does not exist at all if, for example, I meet an Asian-American person in his/her 20s/30s; in fact, they will probably prefer speaking in English.

    I guess I'm leaning towards Chinese now. It does seem that even if China's growth slows down, and even given it's various governmental and demographic problems, it will still become a world superpower in the long term.
  • vienneselightsvienneselights Registered User Posts: 411 Member
    I am not feeding anyone anything. I've lived abroad for long enough to understand the ramifications of being a foreigner, and I read newspapers, kthnx. However, if making the choice between mandarin and spanish, to which OP has NO connection, one is clearly the elephant in the room. Especially since OP appears to have personal reasons.

    Tbh studying a language for business reasons is futile. Everybody speaks english, and it's quite silly to expect that any employer will fawn over conversational proficiency in urdu or something. Languages become a real selling point only when there are 4+ of them, known to a good level, and most correspond to a geographic region. At least that's how it is in the EU, which is the only area i'm qualified to speak for.
  • BlueJayBJBlueJayBJ Registered User Posts: 250 Junior Member
    GL with your studies but don't feed chinadad's ego please. He reminds me of soo many expats I had the displeasure of knowing on the mainland (I found a new job in HK and am prepping it. Like I said before knowing Chinese isn;t a big deal anymore but a foreigner that speaks cantonese in HK is always a perk in the job market). I applaud your desire to get back in touch with your heritage thats always something important. Also about China becoming a super power. Look at the recent power struggle with the maoist left's Bo Xilai and the progressive's retaining power. China has a lot a lot of issues before it can become a true superpower.
This discussion has been closed.