400,000 American students learning Mandarin
["north america"]
Learning Mandarin has grown in popularity in the United States, as the number of K-12 students learning the language has doubled to 400,000 in two years, according to Morgan Jones, Chief Operating Office of the US-China Strong Foundation. 
The US non-profit is leading a Chinese language education initiative called "1 Million Strong," with the goal of one million American K-12 students learning Mandarin by 2020.
Three factors for rapid growth
"We've definitely seen a lot of growth since we announced the program [in 2015]. There were somewhere around 200,000 Americans learning Mandarin Chinese. There are currently 400,000 learning Mandarin Chinese," said Jones, who speaks fluent Mandarin himself.
Jones said the number was estimated based on data collected from various resources including American Council on Education which focuses mostly on public and private schools
"We also look at heritage schools where Chinese Americans are learning Mandarin Chinese," he said. "We also have our own in-house data team that has been reaching out to immersion schools throughout the United States."
A Mandarin class./Photo via the New York Times

A Mandarin class./Photo via the New York Times

Three factors have led to the rising popularity of learning Chinese in the US, Jones said.
"One of the things that I've noticed is obviously there's a strong economic relationship between both countries," says Jones. This relationship gives Americans potential career opportunities in learning Mandarin.
The other aspect is learning Chinese helps Americans "dig deeper" into China's 5,000-year history and culture as one has to "actually learn the language to immerse" oneself in that environment, he said, "There are many Americans that are very interested in that."
Third, the rapid growth and expansion of private Chinese-learning schools, programs, as well as related online programs, mobile phone apps, among many others, also provide Americans greater accessibility and convenience to learn this language.

Far reaching impact on US-China relations

Jones, who had lived in Shanghai, China for about seven years, said he is very happy to see Mandarin becoming popular in the US as English is in China.
Photo via hutong-school.com

Photo via hutong-school.com

"Both countries will be able to speak in a language that they can both understand," he said. "We don't have to be best friends. We also don't have to be adversaries, but if we can communicate with each other respectfully. That's going to be able to bridge the gap between both cultures and the best way to start."
"Our mission is all about strengthening US-China relations through students and youth," he added. "There are various ways that you can strengthen the US-China relationship on a very immediate level... [but if you] do that for more long-lasting behavior, you have to start with the youth and you have to start with education."
The 1 Million Strong initiative is divided into three separate pillars, Jones said. The first pillar is teacher training. The second is the curriculum pillar, which makes sure there are proper standards K-12 schools are implementing to learn Mandarin nationwide. The last pillar is state and local outreach, where teachers will be trained to learn how to better teach Mandarin to K-12 students.
Announced in 2015 by the United States and China, 1 Million Strong is the second initiative led by the US-China Strong Foundation. The first one – 100,000 Strong started in 2009 and its initial goal of getting 100,000 American students to study abroad in China by 2014 was achieved.
Source(s): Xinhua News Agency