International assignments, study overseas, or meeting your new partner’s parents may be a time when you need to pick up a little more than a stilted “how are you?”. Mandarin is often cited as the language of champions—hard to learn but the language of a nation powering towards global dominance. It’s not unreasonable to expect our business leaders to give this complex but rather beautiful language a try. But when a local girl recently applied for a part-time job selling Body Shop lipstick and fruit-flavoured shower gels in her hometown of Cambridge, UK, she didn’t expect Mandarin to be on the list of requirements.
The surprising story reflects the changing nature of the world, where even if you have no desire to get on a plane, you may be exposed to the culture of others in ways you’d never have imagined. The student dollar is powering a number of economies, and when overseas student applications mean sometimes treble the fees collected, it’s a group who represent some attractive income.
Beyond this, there are few downsides to language skills. Research suggests that a mind is exercised in the best possible way by practicing a bonjour, hola or ciao. Mandarin is no longer just useful for doing business in Shanghai; it seems it’s a route to the top of the list when selling face cream. Who knew?