It is easy not to bother learning another language, let alone Mandarin Chinese, when English is so widely spoken. But then over 1 billion people speak Chinese as their first language and to know the language is to know the people.
Learning Mandarin Chinese young is the only way to ensure accurate pronunication and unlike say French, Chinese requires accurate pronunication to be understood. This is why we support the learning of Mandarin Chinese from a young age.
If immersion is not possible then starting with the age group 7-11 makes sense as chidren by then have an understanding of how their own language works with which to compare Mandarin Chinese.
We need children who can speak the language well to be the future diplomats working on climate change, entrepreners who sell into China and future Engineers who collaborate to place some of their value chain in China.
Learning the language involves understanding the Chinese culture. We advocate, for example, the use of Tang poetry both in Chinese form and literal and non-literal forms to make this come 'true' when teaching KS2. Without a deep understanding of the culture which comes with learning the language, there is a limit to how much business we in the West can do with China.
There is evidence that learning such as different language as Chinese helps general literacy in the way texting is thought to possibly enhance general literacy. This is something we are exploring at KS2 with some research.
Learning Mandarin Chinese offers cross curricula possibilites alignging it well with the new emphasis on 'Languages and Communication' in Primary and Languages and International Communication' at Diploma level. It offers teachers development into new areas of relevance to children. No one gets bored or uninspired when dealing with China!