Chinese is the new international language
I figure since I might not get net time tomorrow night, I might as well write down some of the thoughts that have been swirling around my brain these last few days.
China is a rising power and a rising economy, everyone knows that. This of course means that a greater and greater number of the population are able and can afford to travel abroad. Given China's population, this means that even not accounting for ethnic Chinese but non Chinese citizens like me, there are large numbers of Chinese-origin people pouring out into the world into all the tourism hot spots.
So it's not too much of a surprise, even though it's hilarious, to turn around on the plaza of the Arc d' Triumph and see a sea of black hair and Asian features. Or to be walking along the streets of Venice and hear someone yelling Mandarin behind you, and then get overruntaken by yet another huge mob of mainland Chinese tourists and their very loud tour guide.
It's the little things, however, that really surprise me. The fluent chinese that are being spouted everywhere I go, for example. One of our tour guides in Paris is a fluent Chinese speaker. I also heard it from a waiter at the Moulin Rouge, who admits to have picked up all his vocab from just serving Chinese customers - no extra classes needed. Ok, these are pros, you might think... Of course, then you hear the mother tongue from the gondola rowers in Venice, and the ice cream shop vendors in Florence... the freaking street vendors and gypsies throughout Italy speak functional Chinese well enough to freaking haggle prices and flatter marks.
They also speak it with a more natural/correct mandarin accent than my ABC cousins, who have been taking Chinese classes for a few years now. That's kinda sad, actually.
Now - food for thought: If you go to any caucasian-run store in, say, Golden Gate park, you probably won't get far (I think, I could be wrong nowadays). And while London had a Chinatown, I didn't encounter any vendors who spoke Chinese. English is already the foremost international language. And it's the French (who are supposedly culturally adamant about not going English) and the Italians that are picking up Chinese "liek whoa". Could there be a deeper meaning or correlation there? Is the world going to end up being English versus Chinese for official international tongue in a few decades? In terms of population, I like our chances.