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Fact sheet

Fact Check: Are there only 130 Australians of non-Chinese heritage who can speak Mandarin proficiently?

Australian Labor Party Language proficiency

Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen claims that among Australia's population of 25 million, just 130 people of non-Chinese heritage can speak Mandarin at a level good enough to do business. Is that correct? Mr Bowen's claim is an educated guess. It was first promulgated by two Australian academics. Daniel Kane, formerly the head of Chinese studies at Macquarie University, estimated the number with the help of other academics, including Jane Orton, director of Chinese teacher training at the University of Melbourne. Professor Kane and Dr Orton told Fact Check there was no formal or precise way of calculating how many people of non-Chinese background used Mandarin at a proficient level. But given this group was so small, it was possible to count them informally, they said. Fact Check canvassed the figure of 130 with several experts in the field, all of whom agreed that it was likely to be in the ballpark.
Verdict: Educated guess

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