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Mandarin gains an edge in India

January 21, 2013

Mandarin, the language which gave Hindi words like Cha for tea and whose rich pictorial script reveals deep cultural roots is now being taught in prestigious management and technology schools in India.

IIM-A, short for the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and IIT-B, the Indian Institute for Technology Bombay (Mumbai), both premium institutions are teaching Mao’s tongue to a growing number of eager Indians. Keen to explore business opportunities with India’s largest trading partner, about 70 out of 380 second-year students at IIM-A have opted to learn Mandarin as a foreign language this year to improve their job prospects.

Sunil Chhipa, a student who enrolled himself for Business Chinese, told the Times of India, “China is the second best option to work for me after India. I took up the elective based on student feedback from previous years. The course has been designed to give us a brief idea on the language, cultural differences, norms and business environment in China.”

Marking a sharp reversal from two years ago when IIM-C candidates rejected job offers from three Chinese financial service providers, the newer batches are looking across the Himalayas, peeping through the bamboo curtain to equip themselves better for the future.

Gaining an edge as a foreign language over French and German, languages that most Indians grew up learning until very recently, IIM-A’s Mandarin class was split into two this semester to accommodate the swelling student base. IIT-B, which has tied up with Beijings Language and Culture University for a teacher exchange too has seen a successive growth in the number of their students learning Mandarin.

Without a solid structure, curriculum or syllabus prescribed by any government, professionally qualified teachers of Mandarin brought from Mainland China create their own material and teach Mandarin in an informal setting. With the Confucius Institute, the language and culture arm of the Chinese government which has feet in North America, UK, Australia  Pakistan and most of South East Asia not permitted in India, teachers coming for short one-year stints to teach in the land of Buddha try hard to create an environment where students can learn, alas the trend needs to grow. The Chinese consulate in Mumbai, recently endorsing Inchin Closers Mandarin courses is a step in the right direction, as professionally run, government recognized courses will gradually contribute significantly in building a structure around the language. Most courses today revolve around language and cultural training, giving participants an overall, broad picture of India’s largest and most important neighbour. The idea is that once an increasing base of young people from both sides of the border understand each others language and culture, the knowledge will build trust and beat fear, thereby adding value to business, industry, economy and a healthier bilateral trade.

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