Ten years ago, Ali Ballo embarked on a Chinese language journey in order to understand the Chinese subtitles in martial arts films. However, it wasn’t until the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) took off that Chinese language learning swept through his home country of Mali.
Compared to the days when many people learned Chinese out of their love for Chinese culture, mastering Chinese has increasingly become a necessary workplace skill, especially for people in BRI countries, with many workplace Chinese language courses offered at schools.
This change has been brought about by the BRI, which was proposed a decade ago. With joint efforts, BRI countries have made remarkable achievements in infrastructure and industrial cooperation, leading to a continuous increase in trade volume.
Data shows that the cumulative imports and exports between China and other BRI countries totaled 19.1 trillion U.S. dollars from 2013 to 2022, with an average annual growth rate of 6.4 percent.
In order to take advantage of the great opportunities in front of them, many young people from BRI countries have taken the initiative to learn Chinese. Regardless of their nationalities and careers, they all share the common goal of gaining a competitive edge in the job market by mastering Chinese.
“This is my email.” “Please give me your phone number.”… In the offices of 5idea Education & Technology Co., Ltd. in southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou, teachers are teaching online business Chinese to students in BRI countries.
Muhanmmad Dihan Pradana from Indonesia is a banker working in Jakarta. Starting from scratch, she has been learning Chinese for three months and can now engage in basic daily conversations in Chinese.
The BRI has greatly promoted infrastructure development in Indonesia. The recently opened Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Railway is one example. With more Chinese enterprises and projects entering Indonesia, a good command of Chinese allows her to interact with more Chinese clients, which benefits her business.
For Belarusian student Autukhovich Alexander Ivanovich, the purpose of learning Chinese is as direct as to earn a higher salary.
After the proposal of the BRI, many Chinese enterprises started to explore the local market. Talented local individuals who can speak Chinese have a distinct advantage. Compared to general technical workers, those with a command of Chinese can earn two to three times more, according to Ivanovich.
Since its establishment in 2017, 5idea has trained nearly 200,000 online students from more than 50 countries and regions around the world, with the vast majority coming from BRI countries, according to Wu Yuzhao, the company’s board chairman.
As the international cooperation for the BRI advances, more Chinese companies are going global. Some of them face a shortage of bilingual technical talents, while local employees who want to enter Chinese companies are also eager to learn Chinese.
“The introduction of workplace Chinese language meets the dual demands of enterprises and talents,” said Qiu Jianshi, secretary general of the global alliance for promoting workplace Chinese language.
In 2020, “General Chinese in International Workplaces” co-edited by Jia Yimin, former principal of Huaqiao University, and dozens of authoritative Chinese language experts from China, was released.
“We hope to launch scientifically and practically based teaching materials tailored to the BRI, making workplace Chinese courses more standardized so that students starting from scratch can become professional talents capable of competently using Chinese in the workplace,” said Jia.
Data from the Chinese Ministry of Education shows that as of May 2023, Chinese language education has been carried out in more than 180 countries and regions. A total of 81 countries have incorporated Chinese into their national education systems, and the number of foreign people learning Chinese has exceeded 30 million.
Industry insiders believe that under the advancement of the BRI, the popularity of business Chinese indicates that Chinese is becoming more practical and useful, which in turn will promote economic and trade cooperation and cultural exchanges between China and other BRI countries.