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Chinese-language Learning Hot in Indonesia

Chinese-language courses are mushrooming across Greater Jakarta, as Indonesian businessmen, impressed by China's rapid economic growth, rush to establish contacts with their Chinese counterparts.

Staff members from the Wen Hua Mandarin Institute and the Han Lin Mandarin Course, the major Mandarin-teaching institutes in Jakarta, have said that many of their students are studying the language in order to establish ties with Chinese businessmen from China and around the world.

"Most of our students who are executives at Jakarta-based companies say they want to study Mandarin to broaden their business contacts with Chinese people," said Wen Hua's program coordinator Tanny Chenying.

Tanny, a Chinese citizen who started the course in 2003, believes that the students' interest reflects how Indonesians have come to understand the importance of mastering Mandarin, the official language of the People's Republic of China.

She said that Mandarin has become a second international language as it is being used by Chinese people around the world.

"Based on the size of China's population, at least 1.3 billion people speak Mandarin, while the number of people who speak the language outside of China could double that number," she said.

Tanny said that aside from attracting Indonesian businesspeople, the course is also popular with expatriates working in Indonesia.

"We have Australian, French, Korean and American students attending our evening classes. All of them say they are motivated by economic reasons," she said.

She gave an example of a South Korean student, an executive at Samsung Indonesia, who was studying Mandarin so that he could ask his company to transfer him to its branch in China.

"He said he wanted to experience working there," Tanny said.

Iwan Lee, president director of the Han Lin Mandarin course in Bogor, said that besides business interests, learning Mandarin can also help businesspeople better understand the widely varied Chinese culture.

"To understand a culture, you must first master the language. To understand Chinese culture, you have to be able to read and communicate with Chinese people to see how they think and act," said Iwan, whose course is also attended by traders of Indian and Arab descent.

About 10 million people live in Jakarta, with about 5 percent of them as Indonesian-Chinese. Most of the middle-aged Indonesian-Chinese here can not speak Mandarin very well, as the language had been censored during President Soeharto's rule.

Meanwhile, the Sino-Indonesian economic ties are booming. The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce hopes trade volume with China to reach 15 billion US dollars in 2005, and up to 20 billion dollars in 2006.


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