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Market open for bilingual job seekers

By Zhang Yunbi in Islamabad | China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-07 07:26

Zhang Daojian, vice-president of the Confucius Institute in Islamabad, said he has had numerous requests over the past year from Chinese businesses that want to hire local Mandarin-speaking students.

"Studying Chinese is a great help to Pakistani students because many Chinese companies here want to hire people who can speak English, Urdu and Mandarin," Zhang said.

Urdu is the national language of Pakistan, and both Urdu and English are the official languages.

"Last year a Chinese company asked me to recruit such talent, and I apologized because we had no students available," said Zhang, a former teacher at Beijing Language and Culture University. The university established the Confucius Institute in Islamabad in 2007.

Zhang said some of the students who are fluent in Mandarin went to China for further studies, and the rest were hired in Pakistan.

"Generally, their jobs are really good, and most of them are working in banking or for leading Chinese enterprises," he said.

The Confucius Institute gave Mandarin lessons to 6,000 students in 2012 amid the nationwide drive to learn the language.

"Mandarin lessons are compulsory in the leading elementary schools here," Zhang said.

The Confucius Institute also co-hosted a series of cultural events to boost public diplomacy. One such event last year impressed Zhang with the Pakistani public's enthusiasm for Chinese culture.

Local enthusiasm

"We participated in a cuisine festival last year, and China's booth attracted many people.

The traditional friendship between the two neighbors is one of the reasons Pakistanis want to learn Chinese, he said.

"Economic, political and cultural exchanges are frequent between the two countries, which naturally provides a major boost to the demand for learning Mandarin."

Traditional Chinese culture also appeals a lot to the local people, Zhang added.

Although Pakistanis have a strong desire to learn Chinese, Zhang said maintaining that enthusiasm is difficult.

"Some students have been brought up in well-off families, and they went to Britain or the United States for further studies after abruptly ending their Mandarin lessons," he said.

Others who get posts at branches of Chinese companies in Pakistan are not interested in furthering their studies, Zhang added.

Security concerns

The security situation in Pakistan also is a concern, Zhang said. The media seldom reports good news about Pakistan, and the country has been depicted as being overwhelmed by bombings and earthquakes, he added.

One recent explosion several kilometers from the institute killed more than 20 people.

One of the institute's teachers was giving lessons near the site of the bombing, but no one with the institute was hurt.

The security issue is a concern for some teachers from Beijing before they leave for Islamabad, Zhang said.

But the situation in Islamabad is relatively safe compared with elsewhere in the country, and one will be all right if he or she takes precautions, he said.

No Chinese teacher may leave Islamabad without Zhang's permission, and he suggests that they finish their shopping early in the morning.

"I told them to leave at 7:30 am to buy fruits and vegetables and ensure they return before 8:30 am. The fewer people there are on the streets, the safer it is."

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