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More than 9,600 foreign students from 113 countries came to Shanghai to learn Chinese last year, 2,800 more than in the previous year, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The rapid development of China's economic and cultural exchanges with foreign countries is attracting more and more foreigners to China.

It is estimated that foreigners living in Shanghai now total some 300,000, most of whom are working for international companies, or as technicians in state-owned enterprises or as visiting scholars in universities.

Their command of Chinese, to some extent, plays a role when they apply for a new position in transnational corporations with offices in China. Samsung and Fuji Bank take HSK (Chinese Proficiency Examination) qualification certificates into account when they take on new employees.

Increasing Demand

As early as the 1950s, the Shanghai-based East China Normal University (ECNU) began developing the teaching of Chinese. At that time, Vietnamese students were the only ones studying Chinese.

However, in the past five years, a dramatic change has taken place, according to Wang Weiqiang, deputy director of the College of International Chinese Studies at ECNU. At the university, some 700 students from more than 30 countries are studying Chinese full time, and 500 foreign students are studying Chinese part time.

"There is a big demand for Chinese teaching and it is a large potential market," Wang said.

In the College of International Studies at ECUN, Chinese classes are divided into two types: bigger classes of about 30 students, and smaller classes of 12 students. Full-time students pay US$2,200 a year in tuition fees with a lower rate for part-time students depending on the number of teaching hours.

"Taitai Ban" (classes for the wives of foreign employers) is a part-time course. These women learn Chinese for three hours, three nights a week. Their yearly tuition fees are US$1,100.

"On the whole, Chinese teaching is a profitable business," Wang said. Taking advantage of this emerging trend, most public universities in Shanghai are setting up Chinese teaching, courses. Fudan University, Jiao Tong University and Shanghai International Studies University are about to introduce the courses.

One-on-one Teaching

In cooperation with the Taiwan Language Institute, China International Intelligence Corp has opened a Chinese teaching class, aiming to teach Chinese to foreign workers in Shanghai. A distinguishing feature of the course is that it includes a more practical teaching method with more attention paid to spoken Chinese.

As well as a one-on-one teaching environment, the teaching location is also flexible. Students can study in schools or ask teachers to teach them at home. The curriculum covers not only language, but Chinese culture as well, including calligraphy and painting.

Tuition fees vary according to class numbers - US$15 per hour for a one-student class, US$10 per hour for two-students, US$8 per hour for three, US$6 per hour for four and US$5.50 per hour for five.

Statistics from a recent conference in Beijing on language studies showed that 2,027 universities in 85 countries already have, or are setting up, Chinese language courses.

More than 25 million people overseas are now learning Chinese.

But while the number of foreigners wanting to learn Chinese is steadily rising, the number of qualified teachers of Chinese has not kept pace. The number of qualified teachers of Chinese is only 4,000. A market for Chinese teaching is coming into being in China.

(Shanghai Star January 31, 2003)

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