As a parent, ask yourself: Am I raising a globally competitive child?

If your answer is "no", or at the best "not sure", this article may be for you. While I don't have any kids of my own yet, I am going to take a page out of the Book of Oprah and give the world's parents some advice.

As Thomas Friedman outlined in his seminal work, "The World is Flat," technology has leveled the international playing field into one where the weakest fall by the wayside and only the brave, bold, and adaptable will survive.

Scary, huh? Until U.S. schools get their act together, it will be up to parents to ensure that their kids obtain the tools necessary to compete. Fret not, moms and dads, you don't necessarily need to have these skills yourselves to help your children obtain them. Fortunately, we are living in an age where if you can't do something yourself, help is only a mouse click away.

So what's the first step for children with dreams of conquering the world?

Become multilingual!
The mastery of multiple languages and world cultures is quickly becoming a critical 21st century skill set as American students prepare to live and work in a global society. Regardless of career, students should count on interacting with others around the world whose native tongue isn't English.

So what language(s) should kids learn? Actually any language is useful, as studies have shown that learning foreign languages improves cognitive thinking; increasing creativity and overall critical thinking skills. However, you definitely want to focus on a language that is and will remain relevant in the world arena.

Top 10 Countries by Gross Domestic Product, 2007

Rank

Country

GDP (millions of USD)

1

United States

13,840,000

2

Japan

4,384,000

3

Germany

3,322,000

4

China (PRC)

3,251,000

5

United Kingdom

2,773,000

6

France

2,560,000

7

Italy

2,105,000

8

Spain

1,439,000

9

Canada

1,432,000

10

Brazil

1,314,000

Data from The CIA 2007 World Factbook.

A quick look at the top world economies would make you think that your language choices should focus around a future either driven by Japanese automaker Toyota (NYSE:TM) or programmed by German software giant SAP (NYSE:SAP). However, despite the strength of these companies, their countries will not be the likely origin of the world's future growth. In fact, Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) is predicting a significant reshuffling of the major global economies over the next several decades.

Top 10 Countries by Gross Domestic Product, 2050 (projected)

Rank

Country

GDP (millions of USD)

1

 China

70,710,000

2

 United States

38,514,000

3

 India

37,668,000

4

 Brazil

11,366,000

5

 Mexico

9,340,000

6

 Russia

8,580,000

7

 Indonesia

7,010,000

8

 Japan

6,677,000

9

 United Kingdom

5,133,000

10

 Germany

5,024,000

Data from Goldman Sachs Paper No. 99: "Dreaming With BRICs: The Path to 2050."

Assuming Goldman has it right (as they often do), Standard Mandarin, also known as Standard Spoken Chinese, looks like the growth language to beat. But don't just take their word for it; look at what a couple of the world's smartest investors have to say.

The Best from the West on the East
Jim Rogers, co-founder (with George Soros) of the Quantum Fund, recently sold his New York mansion and relocated his family to Singapore. Among his rationales, Rogers cited the desire to immerse his daughter in a Mandarin-speaking environment. "The best gift we can give our children is to let them learn Chinese and prepare them for the future", Jim told The Sunday Times.

Even Warren Buffett uttered supporting sentiments while speaking to students in London stating, "The 19th century belonged to England, the 20th century belonged to the U.S., and the 21st century belongs to China. Invest accordingly."

How the East was won
For students in the West, complacency is not a viable option. China, a nation of 1.3 billion, is brimming with optimistic youths who are intellectually hungry and determined to enter the global marketplace as bilingual capitalists. No wonder companies like New Oriental Education (NYSE:EDU), ATA (NASDAQ:ATAI), and Noah Education (NYSE:NED) are staking their futures on providing robust, multilingual curriculums to the upcoming generation of Chinese learners.

So find your child the nearest language tutor, class, or even a copy of "Pimsleur on Mandarin" from Simon & Schuster's (a division of CBS (NYSE:CBS)). Get them interested in what's going on in China, as well as the other emerging markets. It won't be easy, but they will definitely thank you later.

Zhu Ni Hao Yun! (Good Luck!)

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Fool contributor Andy Louis-Charles is fluent in both English and value investing. In addition, he has decided to put his article where his mouth is and will attempt to add basic Mandarin to the three other languages he speaks poorly. The Fool has a disclosure policy.