Mandarin Chinese: why you must learn it

Mandarin Chinese: why you must learn it

Mandarin Chinese: why you must learn it

According to  foreign language experts, India will require at least 5000 Chinese language experts/ interpreters/ translators every year for the next  10 years, if we are to keep pace with the progress of China, for the dragon country has become the second largest economy in the world. But despite efforts of the private and public educational centres, scarcely 1000  Indian scholars in Chinese language pass out of the academies as the failure rate is as high as 50 per cent. 

Yet Chinese language centres are mushrooming all over India, from Vellore in Tamil Nadu to Chandigarh in Punjab. In the United States, Chinese has become the third most popular foreign language. One language expert said, “Some rich New Yorkers are hiring Chinese nannies so that their children can grow up learning Mandarin — the main Chinese dialect.”

In India, experts said several factors were fuelling the surge in Chinese. Many leading IT companies insist that some of their experts learn Chinese. These companies have deputed many employees from India to their China offices.

Indian parents, students and educators recognise China’s emergence as an important country and believe that fluency in its language can open up opportunities. Also stoking the interest has been a joint programme by the college boards and Hanban, a language council affiliated with the Chinese education ministry. Some language schools are paying for Chinese classes on their own, but many are getting some help. China is sending teachers  to schools all over the world – and paying part of their salaries.

A host of opportunities are available for the successful student. In recent years the need to translate reports, contracts by China in India and in China by India has grown many fold. This kind of translation is technical translation. The corporate houses approach various translation centres for this purpose.

Interpreters in demand
Then again, the job of interpretation between Indian and Chinese executives involves a lot of trust because the interpreter alone knows the crux of the conversation, which is going on and in any deal with Chinese firms. Further, the interpreter must possess very high proficiency over the language concerned because, unlike the translator, he does not enjoy the facility of a dictionary. The work has to be done instantly. A good awareness of the current developments and familiarity with new technical terms would definitely ensure success. Generally, interpreters start as tourist guides. After specialisation, they can work at international seminars and meetings.

When recorded audio reports are translated into text format, the process is known as transcription. With more and more professionals relying on skilled transcriptionists, it has become a very fast growing industry.

Where to learn
* School of Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (JNU)
* Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages (CIEFL),  Hyderbad Website:
* Benaras Hindu University, Varanasi
*University of Delhi, New Delhi
* Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Jawaharlal Nehru Academy of Languages, New Delhi
* Ramakrishna Mission, Kolkata
* Western Regional Language Centre, Pune.
In addition, there are Chinese language schools run by the Chinese embassy in India in places like Vellore and Kolkata and the quality of teaching is excellent, for they maintain a teacher-student ratio of 1:15. In Indian-run language schools the ratio is 1:40.
The Chinese government offers a three-year intensive course suitable for classes between 9 and 12 as well as all adults. These  schools subsidise 90 per cent of the fee for 10 per cent of the student strength, who would be from the needy and deserving strata.

For those who would like to go to China and learn Chinese, there are approved one-year courses available, with the annual fees including boarding/ lodging /  tuition adding up to Rs 1.5 lakh.

One word of caution about learning Chinese. When we learn a new language, we start with the alphabet. But Chinese is not an alphabet-based language; you cannot ask someone to spell the word ‘pingguo’ (apple) in Chinese. Learner’s dictionaries for foreign learners transliterate Chinese words in the Romanised script known as ‘pinyin’ and arrange the words alphabetically.

A complete mastery of Chinese may not be a very easy task for everyone; even for the Chinese. An extremely well-educated Chinese scholar has a knowledge of about 6,000 to 7,000 characters.

However, an average educated person possesses knowledge of about 2,000 characters — sufficient to read a Chinese  newspaper and communicate effectively.
A proficient foreign student with a career in mind should understand anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000 characters. This study requires about 3 years of dedication and passion.  
So how much do interpreters earn? It could range from Rs 3,000 to Rs 6,000 a day, depending on the interpreter’s ability. The rates vary depending upon the nature of the job and the experience of the translator. If you specialise in a particular field, you can demand  a higher fee.  Today, Chinese speaking Indians enjoy an advantage because the Union Government’s drive to recruit foreign language speakers is being undercut by the expanding private sector.
Maharaja Features

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox