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Monday Apr 08 2019

Learning Mandarin in Pakistan

First Secretary Culture Department Chinese Embassy Islamabad Pan Yuqi. Photo: Author 

Pan Yuqi, the first secretary of the culture department at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, talks about the rise in the number of young Pakistanis learning Mandarin.

Q. Since a few years now, Chinese-language courses are being taught in Pakistan. How do you see this development?

Mr. Yuqi: Such developments are bringing the people of Pakistan and China closer and at the same time providing ample opportunities to citizens of both countries to grow together. Pakistan and China already are working closely in the fields of infrastructure, energy and socio-economic ventures. As a next step, there will be collaborations in the field of information technology, industry, railways, agriculture, livestock and optic-fibre, amongst others. For all of this, communication, and better communication will be the real game changer. Mandarin will help bridge the gap.

Q. In your opinion, is this only due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)?

Mr. Yuqi: The CPEC has definitely increased the avenues of cooperation. In the 1990s, very few people in Pakistan were interested in learning Mandarin. Maybe few schools colleges were offering courses in the public and private sector. After the CPEC was announced, there was an uptick in the number of people signing up for such courses.

Q. Will learning Mandarin help Pakistani youth find jobs in China or with Chinese companies in Pakistan?

Mr. Yuqi: A large number of Chinese companies are coming to Pakistan now to invest. This will open up job opportunities in the local market. And they will definitely need young professionals who are well-versed in Mandarin.

Pakistanis have a great understanding of English. I have noticed that everyone I meet here can communicate in the language to some extent. But the problem is the majority of the Chinese staff who will be working on the CPEC projects will not be able to converse in English. A large chunk of the Chinese firms, willing to relocate to the Special Economic Zones, will have employees who will only speak in Mandarin.

Moreover, an understanding of the Chinese-language will remove any misunderstanding there may be about China amongst the general public. China has its own cultural diversity. It follows its own traditional flair, social characteristics, philosophical narratives, governance system and charter of politics.

Q. Are there any local tests, such as TOEFL for English, which can be taken in Mandarin?

Mr. Yuqi: Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) is an international standardized test to check a person’s proficiency in Mandarin. The HSK consists of six levels, namely the HSK (level I), HSK (level II), HSK (level III), HSK (level IV), HSK (level V), and HSK (level VI). The HSK Speaking Test is conducted in the form of an audio recording. The Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban), a non-profit public education organisation, provides certification to those who take the Chinese-language tests overseas.

In Pakistan, the Confucius Institutes have been established at the Punjab University, the Agriculture University in Faisalabad, National University of Modern Languages in Lahore and the University of Karachi.