Associated Press - May 22, 2011 10:55 AM ET

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - As Tennessee's economy shifts to businesses with ties to China, students as early as middle school are taking an interest in learning the language that could help their careers.

Tennessee industries export $1.87 billion in goods to China, a trend that is nationwide, and in response, more public schools are offering classes in Chinese language.

Although Spanish is the most popular foreign language, The Tennessean reports about 1,200 students in eight Nashville schools are learning Mandarin Chinese and other schools offer it as a part of after-school programs.

Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce President Ming Wang said the state ranks sixth in the nation in exporting goods to China.

Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

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