‘No Barrier’ to Chinese Becoming ‘Global Language’

East Asian girl jumping through the Great Wall of China

Australian author and professor Dr. Jeffrey Gil, of Flinders University in Adelaide, claims there is “no barrier” stopping Chinese becoming a “global language” like English, as universal literacy is not required for a global language status.
“There is a flawed assumption that all learners of Chinese must learn to read and write to a native-like level—although this does not reflect the global use of English,” argues Gil. “People learn as much English as is required for their purposes, and the same would apply if Chinese was a global language.”
Gil, who authored Soft Power and the Worldwide Promotion of Chinese Language Learning: The Confucius Institute Project (Multilingual Matters, 2017) and teaches English as a second language, points out that computers and cell phones could convert the Chinese phonetic alphabet or Pinyin into certain Chinese characters in the article “Will a Character-Based Writing System Stop Chinese Becoming a Global Language? A Review and Reconsideration of the Debate,” published in the journal Global Chinese.
With hundreds of millions of Chinese speakers in China and the world, Gil has also claimed that the language has been used in other countries outside China. “There is a historical precedent for the adoption of characters outside China, with a long-standing use of written Chinese for scholarly and official purposes in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam,” he is quoted as saying. “This occurred due to China’s status as the most powerful country in the region, if not the world, and demonstrates that people in any country will learn and use characters if there is sufficient reason to do so.”
He has also debunked a viewpoint that Chinese could not be embraced as a global language. “The inconsistencies and irregularities of English’s writing system show that linguistic properties alone do not determine whether a language becomes global,” Gil claims. “I conclude that a character-based writing system will not prevent Chinese attaining global language status.”

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