Learning another language such as Chinese has many benefits. For starters, it is the beginning of exposing you to another culture. By learning Chinese, you become exposed to the way Chinese think and talk about topics related to food and culture, society and many other topics. This helps give you a different perspective as to how different cultures interpret and view the world, and often re-shapes peoples’ overall understanding and beliefs as well.
As your perspectives expand, you tend to notice your ideas about many things change as well. You begin to question whether the beliefs and ideas you have become accustomed to from a Western perspective are legitimate, or at what level are true. For example, a Chinese person may teach you something like Qigong or Taichi, telling you that simple movements are capable of detoxifying the body and able to extend longevity. At first this may sound abstract or perhaps even impossible, but as time goes on you listen to their theory and watch it into practice, and then later compare it to what you have learned and think you know in regards to what you now know. The same may go for medicine, diet in addition to many other customs and ideas as well.
This also extends into thoughts on society. If you learn Chinese you get to travel around and meet with locals in China and understand their views on marriage, work and overall lifestyle. The Chinese may talk to you about their standards of marriage and why it is important to get married at a certain age, when it is good to have kids, why having a boy is important and the family dynamics of living with their elders. You may soon come to hear explanations that are based around traditions that extend thousands year back mixed with modern inclinations absorbed from the West. Whatever it is, it will get you thinking and reacting differently to the ways other people think and act, as well as further prove or disprove your ideas about something.
If you are into food and drink, you are able to read menus and get exposed to food other foreigners in China wouldn’t otherwise get to know. You could also learn cooking with locals and have dinner with them, which often leads to improved relationships （關係）later down the road. Those relations become very important for doing business as well as taking care of personal affairs.
Later, because you have more relationships in China that have essentially been grown through first learning language it will be better for your business, if you were to ever choose going down that path. Doing business in China without knowing the language and making connections is very difficult and therefore knowing the language is a bare minimum in most cases.
The constructs of different languages also work different parts of the brain. In Chinese, because the reading and writing are so visual and are based off pictographs that were created thousands of years ago, the brain associates and interprets language differently then your mother tongue assuming you are from the West, which can lead to increased brain activity and so-called “mind training.” Many tests have proven that people who speak more than one language use their brain in different ways, which can lead to increased creativity and ideas, and may even be less likely to brain deficiencies such as Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of memory loss, as the brain is being pushed in different ways it otherwise wasn’t used to. That is why there are so many different memory loss recovery techniques are based around visualizations and techniques based around accessing different parts in the brain, as they help the brain re-ignite itself in a way.
If not for those reasons, knowing Chinese can also help you land some job opportunities that could help you push your career forward. When you graduate from college you may be wondering what the next step is or may be confused as to what you can do with your degree (most likely it is a liberal arts degree). Therefore, if you know Chinese you might think to yourself that going to China or Taiwan may be a good option to land a local job in company that you may otherwise not have gotten if you were not bi-lingual. You could then take the experience form that job and move back to your country of origin to get other work. Many people go down this route even though it may be more tiring in some ways, but it is creative, adds value to your life experience and CV, and also gives you an overall competitive edge in the market.
Regardless of what your reason may be, learning another language is useful but learning Chinese will be particularly useful since China is expected to be one of the main super economic powers in the 21st century. Whether one would like to admit it or not, there will be high importance for Westerners to understand, cooperate and mix with Chinese in the future, whether it be socially, culturally or economically. In the past, people from Eastern countries flocked to the West to develop and had to learn English as a basic means to stay competitive. It is naïve and pretentious to an extent to think Westerners will not have to do the same in the future. That’s not to say this is because China will dominate the West, but rather, China is a place where opportunities could exist should you chose to move in that direction.
Overall, knowing how to speak, read and listen to Chinese could be important one way or the other and at the very least prep you with some value-added skills for your life and career. So, if you are considering learning it or have begun thinking of what you can do with it further down the road you may want to consider the above-mentioned possibilities, for if explored could open many new doors and change your life in ways unexpected.