Ask the expert: Should my child learn to speak Mandarin?
Q: "My son can study French and Spanish at school, but I wondered how valuable it would be for him to learn Mandarin? How hard is the language to learn for children, and how useful would it be?"
A: Edd Stockwell, co-founder of Tutorfair.com, which makes it easy to find good local tutors, says: "From Facebook's chief executive delivering a 20-minute speech entirely in Mandarin for the Chinese president's recent visit, China's influence on the global market has never been so strong.
"Alongside this, we've found the appetite for students learning Mandarin has also rocketed – recent statistics show a 24 per cent increase in learning the language.
"So why is it so important for children to learn? Simple – invest in their future. China will play a major role in world affairs in the future and business leaders are looking for people who can speak Mandarin and operate successfully in a Chinese cultural context.
"Don't be scared –there's a big misconception that Mandarin is difficult to learn. Usually, after six months' study we find that most students have the language skills to have basic conversations – from making appointments or asking for directions, as well as being able to express their interests and opinions.
"The sooner you get your child learning Mandarin, the better. The brain is incredibly versatile early on and can learn new things much more effectively than at an older age. If you want your child to be fluent in multiple languages, get them started as soon as possible and it will seem like second nature to them."