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Latin American language learning trending in China

Chinese students are increasingly taking up Spanish and Portuguese as China strengthens its ties with Latin America and its economy gains attractiveness to Chinese job hunters.

University language centres and language schools in Brazil have seen an increase in Chinese students. Photo: 12019/Pixabay

China’s universities host a total of 120 Spanish language departments and 40 Portuguese departments

The key to the new trend is employability, according to reporting, with one of the interviewees commenting: “There’s a saying: ‘Learning Portuguese will help you find a good job, with good pay!'”

“This interest for Portuguese is very welcome for the inbound department of BELTA”

According to a report jointly published by the Inter-American Dialogue’s Latin America and the World program and the China-based Comunidad de Estudios Chinos y Latinoamericanos, the study of Latin American languages has grown at a “remarkable pace” in China.

The country’s universities host a total of 120 Spanish language departments and 40 Portuguese departments.

But it’s not just a one-way street. The report also noted that the extension of the Belt and Road Initiative to Latin America will likely foster the study of Chinese in the region.

Brazil’s BELTA president Maura Leão told The PIE that linguistic exchanges between the two countries have been growing since China became Brazil’s largest trading partner.

“Many Chinese professionals who work in [Chinese] multinationals are coming to Brazil and need to learn Portuguese,” she explained.

“Portuguese language departments in Brazilian universities as well as language schools have had an increase in Chinese [students] who seek to learn the language for business purposes. This interest for Portuguese is very welcome for the inbound department of BELTA (Study in Brazil).”

She added that about 250,000 Chinese and their descendants live in Brazil, of which around 150,000 live in the city of São Paulo.

According to BELTA research, Leão added, Mandarin is also increasingly popular with Brazilian students. In 2017 it was the 7th most studied language, and is growing fast.

“In 2016, Mandarin accounted for half of the demand for the 6th most popular language, Japanese, but in 2017 is very close to it,” she said.

“Although English leads in 2017, there is more demand for other languages, [such] as Mandarin.”

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