STUDENTS
16/10/2013 07:31 BST

Boris Johnson: 'Definitely' Teach Mandarin In Schools

Boris Johnson: 'Definitely' Teach Mandarin In Schools
PA
Boris Johnson: 'Definitely' Teach Mandarin In Schools

All students should learn Mandarin in schools, Boris Johnson has decreed - while on a state visit to China.

The Mayor of London, who is studying Mandarin himself, suggested Britons should be learning as much as possible about China as the East Asian giant continues to expand its global influence.

He said children would grow up naturally knowing about China's importance and when quizzed on whether they should learn Mandarin as standard in schools, he told the Press Association: "Why not? Absolutely. My kids are learning it so why not? Definitely, definitely."

The Mayor, who is just over halfway through a six-day trade mission in China, said he was leaning Mandarin "from the beginning" as he brandished a folder on which he had written "central kingdom", or "China", in the language.

On Monday he told university students in Beijing his 16-year-old daughter was learning Mandarin and was due to visit China next week.

Asked if Britain needed to improve its understanding of China, he said: "I think it's going to happen. Human beings are very smart, we will gradually realise that this is the thing we need to know and so you're going to find kids in our city, in London, growing up thinking yeah, China, got to know about that, and they'll learn."

Mr Johnson added: "I love China. I think it's an extraordinary place and I think the more we learn about Chinese culture and the more we learn to appreciate it and to understand it, the better."

Mr Johnson's remarks mark a shift in thinking from a 2005 article in which he suggested teaching Mandarin in schools was not a priority.

In the Telegraph article he wrote: "We do not need to teach our babies Mandarin" and "China will not dominate the globe".

Mr Johnson admitted he got it wrong, telling LBC 97.3 radio: "On Mandarin, yeah that was certainly wrong, my kids are learning Mandarin."

He added: "Some of the things I wrote 10 years ago don't look entirely accurate now and we've got to get with the programme."

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said the mayor wanted Mandarin offered as a mainstream language on the national curriculum, like French or German.

Mr Johnson described the language as a classic example of one that needs to be offered much more widely in schools or Britain would not be able to fully exploit its relationship with China.

He said: "I certainly think that it would be a good thing if it was more widely available. I think I said we wouldn't really be exploiting our relationship with China to the full until kids were taking it up in a much bigger way.

"I think it should certainly be on offer. Whether it should be compulsory or not, it's probably a little bit early for that, but it should be much more widely available.

"And yeah, we're going to need our kids to know Mandarin on a much more frequent and regular basis.

"Generally the study of modern languages in our schools is very sadly neglected. If you look at what's happening to French and German, they have both been declining.

"Mandarin seems to be the classic example of one that needs to be accelerated."