Learning Mandarin Is a Wise Choice
（From Chinese Consulate General in Kolkata）
Consul General Zhang Lizhong delivered a speech on the importance of learning mandarin on the opening ceremony of Chinese Film Festival of ILead Institute held on September 5, 2011. The speech is as follows:
Good afternoon, Mr. Chopra, faculty members, as well as students of the second batch. At first, I would like to express my congratulations to ILead and Mr. Chopra for the one year anniversary of this college. I remember that in June, I was invited here to deliver a speech about the relationship between our two countries, specifically the educational exchanges between our two great nations. Today, I am very happy to be here again. Mr. Chopra suggests that I should stress on one point, which is "learning Mandarin is very important". We can imagine that maybe 10 years ago, anyone stood here saying that learning Mandarin is very important and asked you to learn Mandarin, but probably very few people would respond positively. But today, 10 years later, I stand here and don't need to say learning Mandarin is important, but so many students have voluntarily chosen Mandarin as a foreign language to learn in India.
Mandarin is very much complicated and probably one of the most complicated foreign languages to learn in this world. I think Indian language is also very complicated. I want to say that you have made a right choice and wise decision to learn Mandarin at this moment not only because the relationship between our two nations have been greatly improved for recent years, also clearly because that with so much trade and economic collaborations between us, it is more convenient and competitive for anyone who can speak Mandarin to get a prospective job opportunity either in India or in China. Last year, the trade volume between China and India reached a historical level. Compared to ten years ago, our trade volume has increased by 20 fold. This trade is very much diversified between us. Frequently I went to some functions and find friends doing business with China. When I visited Haldia port about three hours driving away from here, I was told that about 70% of the bulk cargoes go to China. And they expect more cargoes like that going back and forth. I asked one port official if the trade is complementary between us. He said that it is absolutely complementary because everyday he sees so many goods coming back and forth. Because of that, there is a strong enthusiasm for learning Chinese in this area. Many people want to learn Chinese, but there is no sufficient Chinese teacher as well as Chinese teaching materials available for them. China is ready to provide such assistance as training of Mandarin teachers or providing materials to them.
Our relationship has many other aspects besides trade. In education field, there is huge demand for exchanges. In other fields like tourism, there are great potentialities between us. Two weeks ago, I paid a courtesy call to her Excellency, Chief Minister – Mamata Banerjee. I raised some suggestions on how to enhance the tourism collaborations between our nations. Fortunately, I got very positive response from her Excellency. I expressed the idea that tourism should have a priority in the agenda between our two countries, especially between eastern part of India with relevant provinces of China, like Yunnan province.
I am confident because there are so many scenic spots and cultural heritages to be explored. Kolkata is famous in China for its rich cultural heritages. Darjeeling and Darjeeling tea are famous in China. In eastern part of India, there are lots of Buddhist heritages like Bodh Gaya, Nalanda and many historical figures are connected with these places. But in China, many people may not know where Bodh Gaya is. They know that Buddha got enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, but don't know where the Bodhi tree is located. So we need awareness campaign to let people know that they are in east part of India, they are in Kolkata or nearby Kolkata.
Also we need to improve the service to attract more people. I have one example. Chinese tourists have a different habit during their travel compared to western travelers. Unlike the western travelers, who usually like to taste different cuisines during their stay abroad, Chinese would like to stick to Chinese cuisine and don't want to change. Usually Chinese tourists choose to stay in 3-star hotel during their travel. In India, Chinese cuisines are only available in 5-star hotels or in Tangra area, but not in 3-star hotels. Chinese would feel more comfortable if they can have access to Chinese cuisines when they travel to India. This is only one example of the eating habit between the travelers of different backgrounds. I know some Indian vegetarians may feel uncomfortable when they travel to China. They feel difficult to find pure vegetable food in China's restaurants. Some restaurants make vegetable food in the shape of animals like snake or rabbit. But for vegetarians, it's awkward and they feel uncomfortable to have these animal-shaped vegetables. So you should know these things well, otherwise you may be shocked emotionally by these customs. It requires more interactions between the service companies that are involved in tourism. In this part, we would need a lot of people who can speak and understand the language of a different country to do better job. That's why I say this is right time to learn Mandarin because we have lots of opportunities arising out of these exchanges between the two countries.
I want to particularly stress that language is very important to enhance the understandings between two great nations. A few days ago, I talked to a delegation from China. They are experts of Hindi and Bengali literature. One expert is 66 years old and came here with his wife. I was told that there are around 90,000 lines of Tagore poems. He managed to translate all these Bengali poems into Chinese. He is ready to publish them in China. But his wife was a little bit unhappy and complained that her husband almost spent all the time on Tagore's poems and translation. She joked that her husband loves Tagore more than her. I told her that your husband does a very good thing to our relationship. His job is vital and very significant. A few days later when they came back from Santiniketan where they paid a visit to the Visva Bharati University which has a Chinese Institute. The professor made a very successful speech and was well received and warmly welcomed by the students and faculty members over there. His wife changed her attitude. She described how her husband was well received and warmly welcomed by the students and faculty members in the Chinese institute because the audience are surprised to know a Chinese expert can speak good Bengali language and has devoted almost all his life time to the translation of the great poems in Bengali. So you can understand how language can change and improve the understandings of each other.
I think once many of you choose a language, you will be more exposed to that country and its culture. When you go to China, you won't be surprised by the greeting – Have you finished with your dinner when Chinese meet you on the street. Usually we say how are you or nihao in Chinese. But Chinese may greet you with have you finished your supper or have you finished with your lunch. Don't be surprised if you go to China receiving the greetings like that. Tangra has very good Chinese cuisine. But after many Indian tourists come back from China, they would say what they tasted in Tangra can not be found in China because the food is much renovated. The Chinese food in Tangra is still good and tasty, but this kind of food may not sell well in China because they have already been renovated. So, only when you are exposed to the culture and go to that country, you can get an accurate and better understanding. In that way, our friendship can be more enhanced. I know one scholar in this area named Naryan Sen, who is already in his 80's. He went to China in 1950's as the first official group of students to learn Mandarin in Beijing University. He started from learning mandarin and gradually has gained better understanding of the culture and ultimately devoted himself to the friendship movement between our two countries regardless the good time or bad time of the relationship.
Finally, I would once again encourage you to stick to the choice of learning mandarin and make progress everyday.
Thank you very much!