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The UK and China may not be ready to break the language barriers in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

According to Ethnologue data, Mandarin is spoken by more than a billion people worldwide, compared to an estimated 600 million users of English, and while English business transactions still account for 28 per cent of the world’s GDP, Mandarin is fast becoming a serious contender at 23 per cent.

Peggy Lohmann, spokeswoman for Rosetta Stone, the world’s leading language learning software, commented: “With the 2008 Olympic Games looming large on the horizon and with the influx of visitors this will bring to China, it is vital to consider the implications. Despite the common assumption that English is spoken everywhere, it is still notoriously difficult to get by in China without even a basic grasp of Mandarin.”

In 2001, China introduced English as a compulsory subject in primary schools nationwide.

Peggy continued: “This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but in reality, many schools outside the main cities and towns are providing only the basics. Considering the breadth of Chinese workers who are involved in the Olympics, from translators and government officials to builders and taxi drivers, it would be naive to assume that eight years of compulsory tuition will fully prepare the country for the influx of nationalities and languages they will face in 2008.”

Figures released by the European Commission show that 50 per cent of EU residents speak at least one language other than their mother tongue. Many member states claim second or third language proficiency for more than 80 or 90 per cent of the population. The UK lags well behind with only 30 per cent of people speaking a language other than English.

Children in the UK do not have the same opportunities to learn languages as their European counterparts. In 2004, the government ceased compulsory language education in secondary schools past the age of 14. This means that upon graduation most young people in the UK have no knowledge of any language other than English, because if a language is not practiced it’s as good as lost.

Peggy added: “Although more and more UK educational institutions are beginning to introduce Mandarin as an option, it is still extremely rare as a compulsory subject. While both China and the UK are making moves towards learning each other’s languages, they both still have a long way to go.

“As time becomes ever more valuable in modern society and people look for flexible solutions for personal and professional development, e-learning, either as a stand-alone option or alongside classroom based learning, looks set to provide the answer.”

Rosetta Stone language learning software is available as an online option or box sets can be purchased from the website - www.rosettastone.co.uk or www.amazon.co.uk and is available in 30 languages.

-ENDS-

For further information, please contact:

Becky Barr / Justyna Gnyp
Hblmedia
t: 020 7612 1830
e: becky@hblmedia.com / e: justyna@hblmedia.com

Editors' Notes:

About Rosetta Stone (www.rosettastone.co.uk)

Rosetta Stone is the leading provider of online and CD-Rom based language-learning courses. The courses are based on a Dynamic ImmersionTM methodology which means that they are fully interactive and use thousands of real-life colour images to convey the meaning of each spoken and written phrase in the program. The programme’s carefully sequenced structure, written texts and extensive use of native speakers helps the user to attain proficiency quickly, without memorisation, translation or tedious grammar drills. Teaching 30 languages to millions of people in over 150 countries worldwide, Rosetta Stone is the key to language learning success.

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