The three-day visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the UAE is set to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two nations, expand business opportunities and tourism, which all will help increase the popularity of the Mandarin language in the UAE.
Teachers from Mandarin language centres in the UAE told Khaleej Times that the number of Emiratis taking up the Mandarin language course is increasing, thanks to ongoing business relations and developments.
Lucy Chuang, founder of the Chinese Language Institute, Dubai, said the number of Emirati students learning Mandarin in the first half of 2018 has already doubled last year’s total figure. “Recently, we are having more and more Emirati students.”
The institute, which opened back in 2007, has been teaching Mandarin to high profile officials, members of the royal family, government officials, as well as some of the top business families in the UAE, claimed Chuang.
Last year, they had around 60 Emirati students, whereas in the first half of this year alone, the number of Emirati students has reached 100, she said.
Since its inception, the centre has taught around 2,000 students in total, said Chuang.
Recently, the institute has been teaching Mandarin to 50 Emirati immigration officers, who work at the Dubai Airport.
The centre teaches Chinese to students of the UAE Youth Ambassador Programme, which is under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
Chuang said courses are arranged and planned according to the required curriculum.
The students who pass the exams will receive certificates that are recognised globally.
“To learn the basic, it will take around 40 hours of classes.”
Chuang, who has been living in the UAE for 13 years, said the Emirati students have recently become more active in learning the language, because of the Chinese President’s visit to the UAE.
“I think one of the main reasons why more Emiratis are learning Mandarin is because the relationship between the two countries is really important.”
Chuang highlighted that Chinese people feel immensely proud when they hear foreigners, especially Arabs, speaking their mother tongue.
“It shows us that our country has very close relations with the UAE, it makes us feel proud and excited.”
She pointed out that the Emirati students have certainly impressed her with their devotion to learn the language.
“Mandarin is one of the most difficult languages in the world, and as Chinese teachers, we know that.”
Reem Hong, director and founder of Happy Mandarin – Language Training, also said that more Emiratis are taking Mandarin courses and even becoming fluent in the language.
Hong, who moved to the UAE in 1997 and married an Emirati just two years later, opened the training centre back in July 2015.
Since then, she has taught almost 100 students, with the youngest one being just 14 months old and the oldest in his late 50s. According to her, nearly 40 per cent of her students are Emiratis.
“I think the Chinese language is widely considered as the future language and the language of the world.”
Hong added that many Emirati parents are encouraging their children to take Mandarin courses from an early age.
“The parents consider the language as an advantage for their children’s future.” The classes are once a week, with every session lasting two hours.
Hong said she is proud to see the UAE-China relation develop and blossom. “I see more Chinese people coming to the UAE, not just for tourism, but for establishing businesses, making a life and having families here.”
But it’s not just the Chinese making a business impact in the UAE, as Emiratis are also leaving their own footprints in China.
This includes the establishment of some of the popular restaurants in Beijing. “Two of the most popular restaurants in Beijing are owned by Emiratis and the food is so popular among the locals there, they even serve biryani.”
Hong said although a majority of the students are Emiratis and Arabs – there are also Europeans, Indians and Pakistanis.
Nicola Wilson, regional manager of instruction, Berlitz Language Centre, said she is also witnessing a growing number of Emiratis take-on the Mandarin language.
“We recently had a group of 10 Emirati students aged 16-17 years take the course.”
The students who studied on Saturdays, took around three months to learn the basics prior to leaving to China for an internship.
“A lot of people want to be able to do business in China or with Chinese people, I think very few people are learning Mandarin for social reasons.
“There are also many Chinese tourists in the UAE, so businesses can sell products better if they are able to communicate efficiently.”
The number of Emirati students learning Mandarin in the first half of 2018 has already doubled last year’s total figure.