And here’s why.
Jobs in the West
In most Western countries there is already a plethora of native-Mandarin speakers who speak pretty great English. If hiring occurred on Mandarin ability alone, these people would get the job hands down every time. As a non-native speaker, you likely won’t match Chinese ability anyways.
Jobs in China
Jobs in China aren’t a realistic option either if you’re counting on Mandarin ability alone. Most Westerners in Asia are pigeon-holed to one fairly decent job: English teacher.
If you want to break free of this, you’re going to need a lot more than Mandarin ability.
Additionally, many jobs in other professions apart from English teaching do not pay anything near the equivalent of the same position in the West.
I remember finding out in Taiwan about a friend with a master’s degree in engineering making a measly US$900 a month. In Taiwan, it’s not bad. But what if you’re planning for a future someday back in the West? It’s best to look elsewhere.
So, why gain Chinese ability then? Sounds pointless, right?
While Mandarin ability alone won’t get you very far, it will open a vast array possibilities when combined with other more prominent skills.
Say you have a business gifting and can also speak fluent Mandarin. Imagine the advantage and impression you’d make when dealing with a manufacturer in China. Consider the confidence you’d have to visit the plant and understand what is going on.
There’d simply be a tremendous difference in boldness to take chances and control your product which otherwise wouldn’t exist.
Mark Zuckerberg is an example of someone who gets this mentality. He has family reasons to learn Mandarin, but Mark is likely seeing a way to combine his influence as CEO of Facebook with Chinese ability to pry open a new market.
Somehow the effect of Mark sending over a bunch of Mandarin speakers to represent him in China just wouldn’t have the same effect.
But I’ve seen this work on a much smaller scale, too.
My parents while traveling in the South Island (New Zealand) ran into an interesting person.
They set up quite an elaborate tour through a local New Zealand tour organizer named ‘Ben’ online. His company specialises in setting up tailored tour packages to ensure you get the most out of your trip. He was a great guy and did a tremendous job for my folks.
But what made him stand out was he spoke fluent Mandarin. Sure he could make a living off his Western customers, but Mandarin opened up a whole range new customers otherwise impossible. He was fast becoming the go-to guy for Mandarin speakers for South Island tour packages! By being able to serve the ever increasing Chinese tourist market, Ben stands to do quite well from his Mandarin complimenting his business.
So, it’s quite simple. Relying on Mandarin alone won’t get you far. It’s just too narrowing and impossible a road. But once you combine it with other skills and abilities, literally a billion+ possibilities await.