Chinese civil servants required to learn not one, but five foreign languages

A new proposal from Qiu He, a provincial committee member in the Kunming, in the Yunnan province of China, has led to the mandatory education of local civil servants over the next year.  Because Kunming is widely known as a ‘bridge’ from China to South and South-East Asia, civil servants will not only have to brush up on their Mandarin and computer skills, they will have to master hundreds of basic phrases in five other languages.

Civil servants will have to attend an intensive schedule of classes after work, three times a week, sometimes until 10pm.

English is not the only language they will learn. “We will also learn Lao, Burmese, Thai and Vietnamese, as well as Mandarin and computer skills,” an official from the publicity department of the CPC Kunming Municipal Committee told reporters.

On-the-job public officials under the age of 50 in Kunming are required to master 700 daily expressions across five foreign languages including 300 English sentences and 100 sentences in Lao, Burmese, Thai and Vietnamese each.

Qiu also set out clear study duration. A report by Xinhua News Agency said that Qiu has required civil servants under the age of 50 in Kunming to master 300 English sentences, 100 sentences in Vietnamese, Burmese and Lao each before National Day this year. The Kunming Municipal Party Committee and Municipal Government will organize tests to determine the standard of learning and will regard proficiency in rare languages as a requirement for promotion.

As much as I applaud foreign language learning in the workplace, I can’t help but think that this is a punishing schedule that may be a little too ambitious.  The languages are very different, and none use the same script.  I wonder if the students will be required to read and write these languages as well, or if the training will be predominantly spoken.  I will be interested to see how successful this venture turns out to be.

Full article from People’s Daily Online.

Comments on Chinese civil servants required to learn not one, but five foreign languages