What if the investment made into Chinese classes does not pay off?

Education is often considered an investment. Once it is an investment, it is judged by whether or not this investment can generate good returns. And all investments carry risks of generating no or very little returns.


For students, education is supposed to be an investment with high returns, a better paycheque, a higher living standard, and more opportunities. But sometimes the contrary is true.

Studies have shown that college graduates who studied Humanities actually earn a smaller paycheque than high school graduates. Job opportunities for Doctorate Degree holders in Humanities are scarce. Good investments are limited to laws, medicines, maths and engineerings. 

Students are not the only ones who have to calculate their risks.

In the summer of 2021, the whole world was shocked to learn that Chinese government effectively banned online and offline after school tutoring companies, because these educational institutions were creating anxiety, selling anxiety, and exploiting students and parents. 

These companies had raised millions of dollars from outside professional investors. Consequently, after the ban, these investors suffered huge losses. It turned out that education can be a risky business for professional inventors as well.

Learning Chinese occupies a tiny fraction of the entire education business. Nevertheless, it is also considered by many as an important investment with high returns.

However, the other side is also true, what if this investment does not pay off?

Many people claim that learning Chinese and passing HSK test will land you a good job with good pay. What if this is not true?

After memorising a long list of vocabularies related to business Chinese or finance Mandarin, what if they are useless in business dealings because deals are made at dinner parties?

The worst of all scenario is that there is never a chance and probably will never have a chance for students to use Chinese in real life to make money. That probably makes it the worst investment of all. 

Thinking learning Chinese as investment and return have its logic. Ultimately, to prevent losing money, one can choose not to learn Chinese. It doesn’t really hurt if someone does not speak Chinese. There are millions of Chinese who can speak English, much better than most westerners’ Chinese. 

These are the things we face when learning Chinese is evaluated as an investment. Comparing to the money, time and effort that learning Chinese requires, profits that it generates is probably minimal or none.

It is a difficult language to learn and learning Chinese is a long term commitment. 

The conclusion is, if considering learning Chinese as an investment, this is not a very smart investment. Anyone who is using high investment returns to encourage people to learn Chinese is not being truthful.

Fortunately, we don’t have to think everything in monetary terms. Learning, not only Chinese, but learning in general, is an experience money can not accurately describe. 

Learning Chinese is an ultimately satisfying, stimulating and rewarding experience, which gives students a chance to be self-disciplined, to know themselves better, to accept differences, and to be creative.

Thinking learning Chinese as an investment will obliterate all these benefits.


April Zhang
Chinese Teacher
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