Last week, First Daughter Ivanka Trump and her eldest daughter, Arabella Kushner, made a surprise visit to the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. to join a Lunar New Year celebration. At five years old, Arabella has received much attention by Chinese media since her mother posted a video of her reciting a Chinese poem in November 2016. The day after the visit, Ivanka Trump posted another video on Instagram of Arabella singing a song in Chinese while holding a marionette to celebrate the Chinese holiday.
Arabella has been taking Chinese lessons since she was 18 months old, joining millions of US citizens able to speak languages other than English. One in five US residents speaks a foreign language at home, and Chinese is the second most used, after Spanish. In several states, Asian languages even outrank Spanish as the most spoken foreign language. Across the US, more students at all levels are adding Chinese to their curricula. In 2007, Advanced Placement (AP) exams in Chinese became available to high school students. The number of AP exam takers in Chinese has since multiplied to over 12 thousand. The number of college students taking Chinese also more than doubled between 1998 and 2013 to over 60 thousand students. Increasing competitiveness in the job market is a common explanation for the trend, the result of globalization and the robust trading partnership between the US and China. The Department of Labor estimates that roughly 25 thousand jobs will be created for interpreters and translators of all languages, including Chinese, between 2010 and 2020.
Anh Pham is a Research intern at the East West Center in Washington, DC and Master's Candidate in International Affairs at the School of International Service, American University.