April 09, 2018

Chinese language penetration in Pakistan

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1097150.shtml

Learning Chinese key to success of CPEC

By Zamir Ahmed Awan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/4/9 22:43:43

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a flagship project of the China-proposed Belt and Road(B&R) initiative. The B&R is the largest initiative of its kind in recent history. It involves more than 60 countries and regions and more are expected to join. It caters to more than half of the world's population and includes six planned economic corridors connecting several countries. The CPEC is one of the six, and as the first, has been declared a flagship project. Both China and Pakistan are giving it the highest priority and commitment so it can be a role model the rest of the corridors can follow. 

Pakistan has taken several measures to ensure smooth execution of the CPEC. One is Chinese language study. There are currently four Confucius Institutes in Pakistan, dedicated to teaching Chinese language and culture, and several thousand young Pakistani people are enrolled. There are more Confucius Institutes in the pipeline and a need for many more in Pakistan to meet demand. In addition to Confucius Institutes, there are Confucius Classrooms. The classrooms are more flexible in the way they teach language and culture. 

Around 19 universities in Pakistan have China Study Centers. Establishing such centers in our leading universities creates awareness of China and and encourages research on various aspects of China, the B&R and the CPEC, with courses on Sinology and Chinese language. These centers are producing the human resources the CPEC requires.

There are more than three dozen private Chinese language institutes of various sizes and capacities in Pakistan. Most are Chinese-owned, some are joint ventures and the rest are Pakistani-owned. These private institutes are even more useful as they are flexible in their class timings, in courses and some of them provide doorstep services. They cater to people who work and cannot afford to become full-time students. Sometimes, these institutes offer tailor-made programs for small groups or companies. They also provide in-house teachers for companies and teach Chinese to their employees in the workplace. These language centers are actually more productive and add more value - they may charge more, but it suits the requirements of businesses. It is a good business as well and private institutes are making good money.

Yet, there are still only around 20,000 people in Pakistan learning Chinese, which is much less than current demand. The estimated demand is for 100,000 people who have some level of Chinese, and this demand can only grow as the CPEC enters the next phase of mass industrialization. 

Some 20,000 Pakistanis have already graduated from higher education institutes in China, and there are now around 25,000 Pakistani students in China enrolled in various programs, that include engineering, natural sciences, social sciences and medicine, but they are also learning Chinese language, culture and systems at the same time. We are optimistic, with greater efforts, that the gap between demand and supply for Chinese language teaching in Pakistan will be closed soon.

Language will play a pivotal role in communication and understanding China. It will ensure the success of the CPEC. 

The author is a sinologist and researcher with the Chinese Studies Center of Excellence, National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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