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Is Mandarin a must have skill to boost your career in China?

Here is what Busy Expats in China say.

According to the Financial Post it’s only a matter of time before China overtakes the United States as the world’s greatest economic power, which is why learning Chinese is becoming more important especially for international business people who work and live in China or want to do business with Chinese companies.

For expats who already live and work in Middle Kingdom passing an HSK exam is not the purpose even though it's a way, to measure how much you know.

To better understand and analyze the problem I reached to my Linkedin network of professional Expats here in China, who are experts in their respective field, and asked them:

"Is it necessary for Expats to learn Mandarin?"

Here are some interesting replies that I got from:

Karoly Szalai 卡洛伊

I think that before if you were an expert in your field that was enough because everybody was serving you, therefore you didn’t need to learn Chinese. Nowadays China is moving away from this model and the foreigners who are coming here are not irreplaceable anymore therefore they need to learn Chinese and integrate.

Chinese language it’s not a competitive advantage anymore it's a must.

Pavel Liser

I work in the recruiting industry and I recrute a lot of foreigners but also many locals for western brands. I consider that knowing the language it's becoming a necessity rather than just an advantage, because lately there are many Chinese talents that sometimes are better prepared than the westerns. The competitive advantage of being a foreigner in China is not valid anymore.

Knowing the local language it’s a necessity nowadays if you want to compete in the Chinese market and boost your career.​

Ryan Purkey

It depends, I think that there is a lot of internationalisation nowadays. If you are an expert in a specific field than there is no such big of a demand. But if you are inside and doing a lot of cross-border with the Chinese Market than its definitely more necessary or at least a nice to have skill.

My conclusions from this interviews are the following:

From a social perspective in first tier cities such as Shanghai, Beijing or Shenzhen Mandarin is not a must. There are foreigners who have been living here for 10 years and they still don’t speak fluent Chinese, because it’s not necessary for survival purposes or daily communication. At the same time Chinese people here in big cities have a decent English level and you can still communicate with them and get by. There may be situation where you with to be able to speak Chinese but it’s more of a nice thing to have rather than a must thing to have.

However it is clear that if you want to work in China with/for Chinese companies and take advantage to this rapid economic growth or build your career here, it's important to learn Chinese that is relevant and specific to your needs. You want to talk with your suppliers, held business meetings and do presentations in Chinese because that will make the difference with your clients and help boost your career.


How did you learned Chinese that is specific and relevant to your industry?

I would like to know more about your approach, share your thoughts below or reach to me directly on Linkedin.

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