Jobs that benefit from learning Chinese

How useful is learning Chinese? What kind of jobs are there for Chinese language learners?

These are legitimate questions that everyone needs to think about, as learning Chinese requires time, money and energy and it is a long term effort.

Let me share a story about usefulness first.

Two tales about the same ointment

Long time ago, there was a family who knew how to make an ointment to keep hands from being chapped. Because of this special ointment, the family could wash cotton fibres as a living for generations. 

One person heard about it, and offered one hundred gold for the formula of the ointment. 

The head of the family discussed the offer with family members, saying, “We made only a few gold after washing cotton fibres for generations. Now we can make one hundred gold instantly. Let’s sell it.” 

The person who bought the formula went to the king of Wu. The king made his army to use the ointment. In the winter, during a battle on water, because all the soldiers’ hands were well protected, the Wu army defeated their enemy. Therefore, the king of Wu granted a piece of land to this person. 

The same ointment, someone used it to wash cotton fibres for generations while someone used it to get land. This was the result of how it was used.

This story is from Zhuang Zi (庄子). 

I hope it opens up our mind when we think how useful learning Chinese is, and what kind of jobs there are for Chinese learners.

Learning Chinese can land someone a job, or it can generate millions of sales or benefit hundreds of millions of people in the world.

This way of thinking is particularly pressing at the moment, because with the rapid development of A.I. and translating software, learning a new language begins to seem unnecessary. 

I’ve seen commercials for many translating gadgets that help foreigners get taxis, ask for directions, and etc. I’ve also heard people say that they go around fine in a foreign land when they are only equipped with a smart phone. 

These translation gadgets are only at their beginning stage. Their functions are still limited. However, even when they are fully developed, when they can be inserted into people’s ears and do seamlessly translations, like the babel fish in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there is still a purpose for learning Chinese.

Jobs that requires Chinese

The following jobs definitely require candidates to study Chinese. Some of these jobs are better than others in terms of pay or job security.  

  • Chinese teacher

Chinese teacher is a dream job for some and a dreadful one for others.

For people who love this job, they will influence people around them. For people who hate this job, this is a job that pays the bill. 

  • Chinese subtitler  

This is a cool job, transcribing sounds into words. 

But it is being threatened, and possibly replaced one day, by either AI (Artificial Intelligence) or community volunteers.

  • Chinese translator

Chinese translator is good job. Translating Chinese to other languages is still best performed by humans.

However, the current trend is to use AI, Google Translate, or translating Apps to replace human translators. The overall demand for translators might diminish in the distant future.

A narrow path left is probably working for top government agencies or in top publishing houses, where good translating skills and long term partnerships are valued.

  • Tour guide 

This is a great job.

When millions of Chinese people travel to overseas, visiting monuments and museums, a tour guide who can speak Chinese has a definite advantage. 

The problem is that the travel industry is inherently unstable. Especially when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many tour guides lost their income. 

  • College prep consultant

This is a superb job for those who enjoy working as match makers.

Many Chinese students want to go to universities abroad, either for long term study or only a couple of months. Working with them using their native language enables a consultant to fulfil their needs in the best possible way.

This job is in high demand as long as this trend continues. Even during the COVID pandemic, the number of Chinese applicants increases.

Jobs that don’t require Chinese in the job descriptions

The following jobs don’t require candidates to learn Chinese.

These jobs locate outside of China. People who are at these positions are decision makers. 

Learning Chinese will help them to have a better judgement call, which not only benefits themselves, but also benefits hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

  • Senior directors in the luxury fashion industry

Chinese people have been lining up to purchase expensive clothing and pricy handbags. This is a growing market that luxury industry did not ignore. 

Unfortunately, when marketing their products to Chinese people, some brands backfired, such as D&G’s terrible commercials in 2018 and Dior’s upsetting photoshoots in 2021. 

If the senior directors, who were in charge, had taken some Chinese lessons and had a better understanding of Chinese social and aesthetic history, these backlashes might have been avoided. The company would continue to make millions in China and hundreds of millions of Chinese would not have felt being insulted.

  • Top diplomat and government officials

Like it or not, China has become an important player in the international arena. 

The best way to understand the messages Chinese government sends, and the best way to find sensible and tactful solutions to disagreements and conflicts, both require a high degree of understanding of Chinese political and social changes over the millennia. 

Unpleasant scenario happened in Alaska between the US and the Chinese in March 2021 seemed to be a lack of such understanding.

It could have had been avoided if Blinken had studied Chinese. He might have had a different opening statement in the meeting. Perhaps a consensus would have been reached and history re-written.

Conclusion

There are many jobs that can be included in the list, especially in the list of top decision makers, such as investment bankers, business strategists, real estate professionals, and so on.

Readers are invited to add their own jobs to the list, whether it is selling products/services to Chinese people, working with Chinese people side by side, or studying Chinese just to make things a little better for all of us in the world.


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April Zhang
Chinese Teacher
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