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Mandarin Enrollment Plummets
Fewer Westerners are studying Mandarin in college. This is primarily due to growing tensions with China and an inability to compete for bilingual jobs.
According to the Modern Language Association, between 2016 and 2020, enrollment in college foreign language courses fell by -15.4%. But the decline has been even steeper for Mandarin classes: -21.0%. Similar decreases in Chinese course enrollment have been recorded in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and the Nordic states.
So why are Western students rejecting Mandarin? There are two primary drivers.
Souring Mood: We have written several NewsWires on Westerners growing cold on China. (See "Americans Getting Colder on China.”) Not only are students put off by human rights violations (e.g., the treatment of Uyghurs), but the Mandarin premium is fading among employers. Some companies feel it's too risky to do business with the country. As a result, fewer jobs require candidates to know Mandarin. (See "Mexico Becomes Top US Trading Partner.”)
Increased Competition: The remaining jobs that still require Mandarin often go to young Chinese workers. Typically, they start learning English in elementary school and must pass extensive foreign language exams to enter college. Many Westerners simply can't compete with Chinese graduates' level of language proficiency.
In contrast to Mandarin, Korean has been one of the few bright spots for foreign language departments. Between 2016 and 2020, course enrollments rose by +25.4%. This large swing is partially due to the smaller number of students taking Korean: Small absolute changes equal large percentage changes. But it also reflects the increasing interest in Korean culture, from K-pop to film.
Did You Know?
Will You Marry Me… And Sign This Prenup? According to a recent Harris Poll survey, 50% of US adults at least somewhat support prenuptial agreements. That's an +8 percentage-point rise from last year. While only about 20% of all married couples actually have a prenup, the agreements are especially popular with today’s young adults. Nearly half (47%) of Millennials who have ever been married or engaged have signed one. We have written several NewsWires behind the motivation for Millennial prenups. (See "Millennials Turn to Prenups.”) For one, they are getting married later in life and want to protect the personal assets they have already acquired. Moreover, this is classic Millennial risk management: They want true love even while fearing that their relationships will fail. At what cost comes this extra security? For some, perhaps, the experience of completely trusting another person.
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