Here's the link to an article from the AP about the rise of people learning Mandarin, as it quickly becomes the international language of the 21st century. I found this interesting because, on a recent trip to my hometown in New Jersey, I read in the local paper that my old middle and high school will introduce Mandarin into the curriculum next year. Below is a snippet of the text.
"China, having traded socialism for capitalism, is emerging as an economic power, perhaps the only one that could rival U.S. dominance in the 21st century. For a new generation of students, business people and even artists, the land of opportunity now lies to the East, not the West.
Drawn to its promise, many are seeking ways to navigate the often rough-and-tumble Wild West atmosphere of working in China. The clearest barometer of this trend is a booming appetite for learning Chinese.
Worldwide, about 40 million people are learning Mandarin, China's official spoken language and its most common dialect. Nearly 100,000 foreigners went to China to study Mandarin in 2006, more than twice the number five years earlier."