Kyle Rothstein, a seventeen-year-old American teenager, is very popular in Shanghai because he speaks Chinese almost like a native.
His father, Jay Rothstein, knew that China would become more and more important in the present-day world economy, and he enrolled Kyle in an English-Mandarin school in San Francisco when he was five years old.
"I knew that this decision would not be easy," his father said. Kyle often cried, saying, 'I'm not Chinese. Why do I have to learn Chinese?'"
But soon the benefits became obvious. At the age of twelve, Kyle had socialized with two American presidents and with a large number of Chinese officials and celebrities, and he also had appeared in four Chinese television programs.
Now, at the age of seventeen, Kyle lives in Shanghai and is the lead actor in a film, "Milk and Fashion," about a young American living in China. His father is the producer of the film.
A growing number of Americans now believe that Chinese is the language of the future. In the year 2000 (two thousand) 5,000 (five thousand) Americans in our primary and secondary schools studied Chinese. Today the number is around 50,000 (fifty thousand).
Kyle's father, who could not practice Chinese with his son because he doesn't speak the language, took his son to the tourist sites of San Francisco in search of Chinese travelers. On finding them, he introduced Kyle to them saying, "I have found this kid on the street. He speaks only Chinese. Can you talk with him? Can you find out what he likes to eat? Can you take him to China?"
The reaction generally was "What? How's that? Wow!" Soon Kyle became an unofficial ambassador from San Francisco to the Chinese tourists who came to the city, and in 1998 (nineteen ninety-eight) Kyle and his father were part of the official delegation that accompanied President Clinton on a trip to China.
Most of Kyles friends in China are expatriates because the cultural differences between Chinese and American teenagers, he has found, present really huge cultural barriers, and he has not been able to find some really good friends among his Chinese contemporaries.
But Kyle is very popular among his teachers. "He is the first American high-school student that we have been able to enroll in a Chinese class for natives," said Sally Zhang of the Jin Cal High School. "Most of our students think that learning English is important, and the presence of an American student who speaks Chinese very well is a source of inspiration for all of them."