08 May, 2021

Bye Bye To Zai Jian

The Chinese are veering towards improving their English

Bye Bye To Zai Jian

Till a while ago, the only two words that made up the English vocabulary of the local Chinese were ‘bye-bye’ and ‘okay’. In one recent Chinese film, the hero says ‘okay’ some seven times on the phone. And most Chinese prefer ‘bye-bye’ to the local ‘zai jian’.

Things may soon be changing though. Courtesy a decree issued last September by Beijing’s ministry of education, which made it mandatory for applicants to government jobs to have a working knowledge of English. Where a simple test and interview sufficed earlier, applicants now have to take a national English language test. Academicians too, whether they teach Chinese, English or physiotherapy, have to clear this test.

Zhang, who works in the international affairs department of Qinghua University, sees three phases of education in China. The first, he traces from the foundation of the Republic up to 1966. Though education was a priority during this phase, nobody seriously learnt English, as it wasn’t compulsory. They learnt Russian instead, because of the...

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