There is a growing desire world-wide to understand the sometimes misunderstood country of China and benefit from studying the most widely spoken language in the world. More and more people both young and old are learning the language to increase business opportunities and for personal reasons. In fact, quite a few prominent individuals have decided to learn Chinese and broaden their horizons. Among them are former Australian Prime minister, Kevin Rudd; the U.S. President Obama’s daughter, Malia Obama and the successful entrepreneur, Mark Zuckerberg. They all chose to study Chinese as their second language. The study of the language opens the doorway to a variety of important fields including Chinese politics, history, economy and other business opportunities.

In 2010, 750,000 people from around the world took the Official Chinese Proficiency Test. The individuals who began studying the language were very diverse, varying in both industries and backgrounds. There is a huge growth worldwide in the number of non-Chinese, heritage people learning Mandarin. In fact, recently President Obama announced a new initiative aimed at having 1 million American school children learn Mandarin Chinese over the next five years. The Chinese economy is quickly becoming the world’s largest economy once again, which makes it crucial for Westerners to better understand Chinese culture, and prepare American students to deal with China in future jobs.

Obama announced the new initiative while standing aside Chinese President Xi Jinping, who said 2016 “will be a year of tourism between China and the United States.” He said 50,000 students will participate in an exchange program between the two countries within the next three years.

It’s easy to see why knowing Mandarin and understanding China is so important when you factor that they have 1.28 billion people, which equals one fifth of the global population. Presently, China is the second largest economy in the world, along with world powerhouses such as the U.S., England and other parts of the Europe. In 2014, China’s top three trading partners were the U.S. at $521 billion, Hong Kong at $401 billion and Japan.

The demand for learning Chinese as a second language has gone up dramatically, which has made the services that teach the language very popular. According to the Chinese Ministry of Education, more than 330 official institutions are teaching Chinese as a foreign language around the world. The majority of the students are from other countries. Unfortunately, it’s impossible for everyone wishing to learn Chinese to take a course in the country of origin. That’s why online services offering one-on-one tutoring are very valuable. These services aim to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges. Students who enroll in these types of programs are able to speak directly with someone from China, so they see great results in just a few weeks. All the teachers are authentic Mandarin speakers, which helps with pronunciation.

Learning Chinese benefits anyone in “the West” or from countries that make up China’s largest trading partners’ such as U.S., Australia and Germany. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to learn this language and gain better knowledge of one of the oldest cultures in the world.