By: Kyle Feldscher
President Obama announced a new initiative Friday aimed at having 1 million American schoolchildren learn Mandarin Chinese over the next five years. The commitment by Obama would see the number of American students learning Mandarin quintuple; 200,000 students across the country are studying Mandarin today. Obama framed the initiative as a chance for the countries to learn more about each other.
“If our two countries are going to do more together around the world, then speaking each other’s languages so we can understand each other is a good start,” Obama said.
The One Million Strong Initiative will be led by the 100,000 Strong nonprofit organization. That group was launched in 2009, when Obama announced he wanted to see 100,000 Americans studying in China between 2010 and 2014. The goals for the initiative are to help American students gain a better understanding of Chinese culture, prepare American students to deal with China in future jobs, and make sure all American students have the ability to gain knowledge about China.
100,000 Strong wants to help develop national standards for Mandarin for K-12 education and double the number of Mandarin teachers in the United States. The push to get 1 million students studying Mandarin is a part of an agreement between the two countries to improve relations with personal connections. Obama announced it as he stood next to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who said 2016 “will be a year of tourism between China and the United States.” He said 50,000 students will participate in an exchange program between the two countries within the next three years.
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