Why Filipinos can learn Mandarin Chinese faster than you think

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

George Eliot

I’m excited to share Money in Mandarin’s first guest blogger – Mr Kevin Tang. He has a very unique story. For a country (Philippines), who has more or less 10% of it’s population going abroad in pursuit of greener pastures, this guy left China and found his treasure here!


In this post, we will discover:

– How he found his money maker… hiding in plain sight

– How Mandarin Chinese could help your career

– Why he envies Filipinos

– His golden nuggets of advice


My Money Maker


“I can make a living by speaking Chinese? No way!” As a native Chinese, I also had the same response if someone told me how important the language was.


Now, every time, people ask me “hey man, how long are you gonna stay here?”. My reply is always “I don’t know, maybe…forever?” though it is a joke, it is surely half meant. Despite all the affection I have for Filipinos and the beautiful sunset here in the Philippines , it is also because I have stumbled upon the Gold I have been mining for years here in the Philippines , a.k.a my native tongue.

Fudan University Tour of Beijing

I was working as a freelance Chinese tutor/teacher when I was still a graduate student in Ateneo. It started with the attempt to have some pocket money, and later on developed into a stable livelihood that covered big portion of my expenses.


I was surprised with the imbalance between the supply and demand of the Chinese language here. The demand comes from the increasing needs for Chinese language in the business field, career planning, traveling needs, etc. and the supply is rather scarce since not many native Chinese are here in the Philippines .


I moonlight as a tutor, instructor, interpreter and translator while I was a graduate student at Ateneo de Manila University


Mandarin Chinese can help your career


Chinese language, in my perspective, could be a good career booster due to the fact that the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry have been starting to cater to the Chinese market. For instance, I’ve seen many call centers hiring Chinese-speaking agents. Go to www.jobstreet.com or www.jobsdb.com, type in Chinese or mandarin in the search box, and you will see the demand.


The On Demand Global Workforce - oDesk

Not only BPO, but also tourism-related entities, trading companies, etc. are looking for Chinese-speaking applicants. So why all of sudden, more companies are interested in China? According to The Guardian, China has surpassed Japan and become the world’s second-largest economy after United States . China is also the largest exporter and second largest import of goods in the world.  Just imagine a populous country like China (1,339,724,852 as of November 1, 2010), if only half of the people would have stronger consumption power, how much demand in goods and services are going to be?


Why I envy Filipinos


Nevertheless, Chinese is not a standalone cash cow, the sparkle of the chemistry comes from combining both English and Chinese languages. The two languages form a bridge connecting the East, the West, and the rest of the world. Without either half of the bridge, communication would be thorny.



Filipinos have enormous advantages in learning the language. First off, most of Filipinos are fluent in English, secondly, virtually every Filipino is at least bilingual, if not multilingual. That equips Filipinos to learn another language easier than those who speak only one language since born, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, American, and many more.


According to ScienceDaily (May 19, 2009) People who can speak two languages are more adept at learning a new foreign language than their monolingual counterparts, according to research conducted at Northwestern University . And their bilingual advantage persists even when the new language they study is completely different from the languages they already know. Moreover, although Chinese are characters-based language, it also uses pinyin, or Romanized letters for native and foreign language learners. So as long as you know English letters, it won’t be hard for you to pronounce Chinese words.


I am personally rather envious of Filipinos for it is so easy for you guys to learn English, which took me more than 20 years to learn and only have reached intermediate proficiency so far. I feel I am empowered by having English as the additional language, and now, I am reaping what I have planted and labored hard for many years.


My advice for language and life


If a person wants to reach a goal for a better life, it is never too late. Moving forward with a direction is always better than standing still and hesitating. “opportunities love those people who have prepared for them” as a Chinese saying goes.


Kevin finished English Literature at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. He offers various services including translation, interpretation and tutorials. You may reach him at kehtang@yahoo.com


Do you agree with Kevin? Please drop a comment below and let me know what you think, thanks!


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  1. I need Mandarin speaking applicants for our client in Clark Pampanga, preferably with Hotel experience or Hospitality Management graduate. Our company is based in Makati. Please refer your friends or acquaintances who are willing to explore this opportunity. You may contact me at ceciliacanaberal@yahoo.com Thank you!

  2. Hi!

    We are in need of a Chinese Teacher who can teach group classes for adults and young learners in our academy in Bonifacio Global City. Please let me know if you have friends, male or female who may be interested.

    Thank you.

    • i can teach chinese ,please contact me , iam chinese

  3. Hi, We are a BPO company based in Makati City, Philippines and we are looking for mandarin customer service representatives. We need someone fluent in the language and with good interpersonal skills. Basically, they will answer inquiries regarding billings, membership, etc. (no sales involved). This will be a day shift job and the salary range is 55k to 65k. This will be a very good opportunity, you can refer your friends and colleagues looking for a higher paying job. Please just email me their resumes. Thank you so much! 🙂

  4. English is a difficult language to learn, and we Filipinos are lucky to have been born in a country that idolizes English and the Americans that speak it :-p Indeed, it would be a great career and business plus if one can speak both English and Mandarin…

  5. Like the others, I also learned Chinese when I was younger because my parents enrolled me in a Chinese school. When I transferred to another a Filipino school, I forgot how to speak Mandarin. I’m now trying to relearn it. I’m not saying the language is easy but it isn’t difficult either.

    • Good luck on your quest relearning the language!

  6. I need Mandarin speaking Executive Assistant. Our company is based in Ortigas, Pasig City. Please refer your female friends or acquaintances who are willing to explore this opportunity. Thank you!

    • Hi Jonalyn, glad to hear from you. Will email you regarding this. Thanks! 🙂

      • One Contact Center Inc
        Position: Mandarin speaking-Non Voice (Immediate Hiring)
        Industry: BPO Company (international); Salary Ranges: P 50,000 (negotiable)

        – At least 19 years old and above
        – Can speak and write in Mandarin; can understand and speak basic English
        – Preferably Native Chinese Nationality or Filipino-Chinese
        – with or without working visa (to be processed upon hiring)
        – Must be computer literate, knowledgeable with MS Office especially in Excel.

        You may send your resume to : siennatorreja@gmail.com
        33rd Floor Antel Global Building Julia Vargas Ave. Ortigas Center pasig City

        You may call or text: 0949-173-2909

        Look for Ms, Sienna

  7. in my toddler years to early gradeschool i was enrolled in a chinese school and was an honor student for a pure blooded filipino… but later moved to another chinese school where chinese is not much of a priority, that now i can only utter a few and understand a little…

    mandarin is difficult if there’s nobody to talk to and often, after class, most students speak in hokkien or the local dialect… so…

    • That’s true in the Philippine setting. For the most part, it’s an uphill battle. You can take advantage of technology and the internet to find people you can talk to. It will take a conscious decision on your part to do so, and if you’re serious enough, you can really make breakthroughs you wouldn’t expect.

  8. I agree with what you stated in this article not because I am a Filipino but because I was exposed to the Chinese language early (elementary). The Filipino language not being tonal was helpful. It was easy to distinguish one tone from another. Well, the love of Filipinos for the Chinese language is probably inherent considering the fact that there is a established Filipino-Chinese community here. Also, there is a good number of Chinese schools here to provide the education for the language. Probably one of the advantages Filipinos have when it comes to learning the language is the pronunciation of “R” and “L”. Japanese and Koreans are a little hard up in pronouncing these.

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