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Language Scheme to Help Foreigners

Measures to ensure foreigners in Beijing do not become "lost in translation" are being stepped up.


The capital city currently has 650,000 people from overseas working and living in Beijing.


The figure is set to swell even further in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics.


The Foreign Affairs Office of Beijing Municipality said yesterday it expected the improvement program to signs written in English on all the major roads within the Sixth Ring Road and shopping malls to be completed by the end of this year.


The signs correction group, supported by a linguist team, will unveil correction plans for signs within the Third Ring Road today.


Meanwhile, by 2008, more Beijing residents than ever before will be able to speak English well enough to help foreigners who ask for assistance.


Checking and correction work for the fourth, fifth and sixth ring roads have already started, said Yang Liuyin, director of the office.


Chen Lin, an English language expert, said: "Creating a sound and smooth language environment is the basic need for anyone."


A drive to promote residents' English oral skills to help build up the city's international image was launched three years ago.


By the end of 2005, 29 out of every 100 Beijingers could speak at least basic English, or 4.45 million people, according to the foreign affairs office.


The figure is expected to increase to 35 percent by 2008 when the Olympic Games begin, said Yang.


A mass language learning program has been created covering all ages, via TV shows, "English corners" and regional oral and writing competitions.


More than 150,000 people have taken part in hundreds of non-profit public lectures on foreign language and culture learning and etiquette studies.


The lectures received generous contributions from the country's top language training institutes.


(China Daily January 12, 2006)

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