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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Why learn Chinese in China when we can do it here?

In recent years, many Malaysian government officials have traveled all the way to China to learn Mandarin Chinese.

Learning the language in its birthplace will most positively be a valuable experience. But the thing is, how much can one pick up within only seven days?

PM Najib's trip to China has seen Malaysia securing some RM55 billion loan from Beijing. Apparently China has now become our biggest source of funding, and our government officials will have a lot more chances of mingling with their Chinese counterparts in the future.

To get close to China, it will be a definite advantage if the officials can have a good command of the Chinese language.

China's meteoric rise as an economic power has made Mandarin Chinese a high-value economic language. The launch of the "One Belt One Road" initiative has catalyzed the cooperation between China and regional countries with the Chinese language being a convenient communication medium.

Learning the Chinese language has become a heated trend in much of the world in recent years, with many in the EU, US and African states like Nigeria and Tanzania rushing to learn it. Some of these countries started Mandarin Chinese classes as soon as Beijing opened its doors to the outside world decades ago.

Our neighboring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar have also started sending their officials to learn Chinese at Huaqiao University in Fujian since 2005. Over the past 11 years, these countries have produced more than 500 Chinese language experts.

If our officials try to learn the language just for diplomatic or political reasons, I'm afraid they can only pick up nothing but the most superficial.

As a matter of fact, Malaysia is way more fortunate than our neighbors because we boast a complete Chinese education system. If our government were a little more farsighted, funding the construction of Chinese primary schools and independent Chinese high schools, allowing these schools to admit more non-Chinese students, we may not even need to fork out enormous sums of money to send our people all the way to China to learn the language.

The government should have respected the will of the local Chinese community, recognizing the UEC certificate and allowing independent high school graduates to serve in public institutions so as to assist the government with their linguistic talents, instead of turning them away to the benefit of rivaling foreign governments.

If more independent high school graduates are allowed to join the civil service, it will allow the Malay government officials to have a close encounter with the Chinese language and culture in their day-to-day lives. This will be a whole lot more effective than sending them to Beijing for just a week or two.

More and more Malay and Indian Malaysians are beginning to learn Chinese. This will not only enhance their own competitiveness in our globalized world, but will also help bridge the gap among people of different ethnic backgrounds in this country while dispelling unnecessary misunderstandings and conflicts owing to cultural and religious differences.

Unfortunately the government has not paid much attention to the development of Chinese education in the country. If the government recognizes the importance of the Chinese language to the country's development, it should have attached more importance to the development of local Chinese primary schools and recognized the UEC certificate.

Why learn Chinese in China now that we have an indisputable edge in Chinese education?

By TAN POH KHENG Translated by DOMINIC LOH Sin Chew Daily

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