Even in small town Oregon the message is getting out: learn Mandarin.
This is the article "High school to offer Mandarin Chinese" by Eric Dolson that appeared in the Nugget Newspaper (here):
"Mandarin is the common language of China," Perkins said. It has been since the Communists took over the country in 1949 and dictated that all people in every precinct speak Mandarin, the dialect of Beijing. It is the dialect to learn "if you want to be universally understood in China," said Perkins.
Perkins and his wife Paula have had a house at Black Butte Ranch since 1990, though much of their time was spent in Asia. David ran the Quality Assurance program for Payless Shoesource and they lived and worked in Taiwan and Hong Kong for the last 26 years.
"Payless Shoesource purchased more than 90 percent of their shoes from China," Perkins said.
Perkins had learned some Mandarin Chinese in college at the University of Kansas-Lawrence, but was basically functioning in Chinese for most of his 26 years overseas. He spent 21 years in Taiwan and five years living in Hong Kong but traveled to China every week.
Perkins said that prior to 1989, most of the shoes were made in Taiwan, but then the Taiwan dollar increased in value, driving up wages, Taiwanese no longer wanted to work in shoe factories, and travel to China from Taiwan became much easier, allowing factory owners to move the work to the mainland.
Perkins feels that "any kid who can speak Chinese will have the world by the tail in terms of being marketable." That was his own experience. Once when Payless wanted him to move to Topeka to be closer to headquarters, the company decided that with his knowledge of the language and culture, Perkins was more valuable to them in China.
Perkins is asked often if Chinese isn't difficult to learn.
"I personally believe it is no harder than German or Spanish," he said.
He recounts his own story of doing quite poorly in Spanish in college.
"For the first two years, I really struggled with it. All of a sudden, the lights came on and I discovered how to study a language. I am going to teach these kids (in Sisters) how to study language, and avoid wasting time. I am going to get them speaking faster, and show them things to help them learn."
Perkins said one goal in offering this course is to "give something back. Some people helped me out, one guy in particular sponsored me. I would like to give some young kids the same opportunity."
Perkins said the first beginning course will be offered this fall, and in the spring, if there is interest, he hopes to offer two classes, one for beginners and one "for where the beginning students left off."
Perkins' wife Paula works out of Sisters Art Works on Adams Avenue. Perkins said he would also like to offer a "survival course" in Chinese for adults, to help them board the right bus or order a restaurant meal or find a restroom.