Learning Chinese to gain employment edge

By Azera Rahman


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New Delhi : Learning a foreign language has always been a means of expanding one's vistas. But unlike yesteryears when French and German ruled the roost, more and more youths are now lining up to learn Chinese to gain an edge in job opportunities.

Sreemati Chakrabarti, head of the Department of East Asian Studies of Delhi University, said the number of applications the department has been receiving for Chinese language study, besides Japanese and Korean, has increased manifold.

"Japanese has been a popular choice for some time now. We receive 500-600 applications every year for the Japanese course. But lately Chinese is becoming very sought after and Korean is catching up," Chakrabarti told IANS.

In 1995, the department received only 28 applications for the Chinese course. This doubled to 56 by 2000. The next year, it swelled to 105.

"And since 2002 we have been receiving more than 300 applications in Chinese language alone," Chakrabarti told IANS.

So what is it about the language that makes it increasingly sought after?

"India-China bilateral trade was worth $200 million in 1995 but now it has zoomed to nearly $23.5 billion. There are scores of Chinese small and medium industries that are coming to India. They need Indians who are familiar with their language in their business," explained Chakrabarti.

More and more jobs are being created for teachers and translators in IT, pharmaceutical and chemical industries and scientific research projects in China.

The tourism industry, electrical companies and those who deal with infrastructure development are also among those that require Indians familiar with Chinese language.

For instance, Huawei Technologies, a networking equipment manufacturer based in China's Shenzhen city, outsources a lot of its work to Bangalore and employs several hundred Indian engineers at its Shenzhen campus.

Hemant Batra, director of the Chinese Language Bureau here, said learning Chinese also helps one connect to the international community.

"Lots of students these days are going overseas for higher education. Learning a foreign language, especially Chinese, helps one settle in and connect to the international community at large," Batra told IANS.

Having done his masters in Chinese from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) here and then a post graduation in China, Batra has explored a range of jobs, in a multinational company to teaching in both China and India.

Chiranjeeta Gogoi of Assam is one of the many who have learnt the language.

"I learnt Chinese because I felt that with more and more multinational companies coming India, there will be more job opportunities.

"My decision has not let me down. Today, I am working with a public relations company that deals with tourism offices of Macao. Since I know Chinese, it gives me an edge while dealing with my clients," Gogoi said.

"Learning Chinese has paved the path for a fulfilling career for me," said Rachna Srivastava of Delhi. Working in a multinational in India and en route to China following a transfer, she did her advanced diploma in Chinese from Delhi University.

Rinni Misra of Bihar echoes similar thoughts. "Chinese is not an easy language," said the professional in a multinational in China. She has done her masters in Chinese from JNU.

"But I enjoyed it thoroughly. It opened up new vistas for me, which I couldn't have explored otherwise. It's a good idea to learn Chinese or even Japanese because of the growing number of companies coming from these countries. They need people from India who know their language to work for them," Misra said.

Despite this rosy picture, the fact that the drop out rate from Chinese courses is high can't be overlooked. "From the scores of applicants, probably 50 percent pass," said Chakrabarti.

However, the demand for those specialized in the language is very high. "The number of students in the Chinese language course is climbing but the number of faculty members in DU has remained constant.

"We have exchange teachers from universities in China and research associates who teach as well. But the demand for Chinese language teachers remains, not only in DU but at large," Chakrabarti said.