Language skills will play a big part under a new initiative aiming to link China with the world, said Gu Yeli, a national political adviser and language expert.
The launch of the Belt and Road Initiative marks a turning point in China’s overseas development strategy, said Gu, professor with Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. It not only involves economic issues, but also political and cultural issues.
“Many of China’s overseas programs have failed as a result of our little knowledge of local politics, law and culture,” he said. And he believes this gap can be bridged by learning foreign languages.
“By learning a new language, we can research the politics, economy and culture of another country, thus helping formulate China’s strategy on overseas development,” he said.
The Belt and Road has given rise to a greater demand for language talent, especially “those who master English and another foreign language, as well as a bit of knowledge on trade, business and law”, Gu said.
In regard to how to attract overseas students to China, Gu said that cultivating teachers capable of giving lessons in English is important.
Most overseas students in China are on language programs, not degree courses, as most Chinese universities are not well-recognized in the world. Also, many Chinese teachers cannot give lessons in English, Gu said.
“Many teachers, say a teacher of physics or international trade, cannot speak good English, thus preventing foreign students from taking the class,” Gu said. “With the investment in education rising, we are overcoming this issue.”
For example, at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, an increasing number of teachers can now give a lesson in English to a mixed class of students from both at home and abroad.
With a relatively short history of higher education, China did not begin to enroll foreign students until recently, Gu said. And for China to go global, it must first push for an education with global vision.
“To this end, we need to introduce advanced education ideas and courses in the world, as well as foreign teachers and students,” he said.