In the cult film Serenity, Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) created a future where Westerners spoke and traded witty barbs in Mandarin. There are over 800 million native speakers of Mandarin, and if that figure continues to grow, Whedon’s fiction might actually become reality someday - especially as China grows as a world power.
But that figure doesn’t include the growing number of expat children who are transplanted to Asia, and other countries, due to parents working in global businesses. Called Third Culture Kids, sociologists theorize that these cross-cultural offspring are the prototype of the 21st century citizen: globe-trotting, multilingual… and cute as a button.
Ironically, many Chinese here struggle with the language, and young people tend to favor English as a first language.
The wake-up call of a television campaign featured here, which started airing in Singapore this month, kicks off the 30th anniversary of the country’s Speak Mandarin initiative.