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Increasing Foreigners Show Desire to Learn Chinese
Growing numbers of foreigners are showing a desire to learn the Chinese language, latest statistics from the Ministry of Education have shown.

By the end of last year, nearly 30 million people from 85 countries and regions were learning standard Chinese -- putonghua.

China is also witnessing a growth in the number of foreign students who come to study Chinese and related courses, according to Friday's China Daily. This English-language newspaper says an estimated 410,000 foreign students have signed up for Chinese courses over the past 10 years.

It is estimated that the number coming to China to learn the language has maintained an average annual growth rate of 35 percent over the past few years.

China's continuous economic growth and the strengthening of its trade and business ties with the rest of the world have been cited as the major factors behind the interest in learning Chinese.

These kinds of business engagements have in turn sparked a huge demand for professional employees in foreign countries with a good command of Chinese. And the trend is more evident among some of China's largest trading partners, particularly Japan, the United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and some nations in Southeast Asia.

"I think a good knowledge of Chinese can help me secure a good job back in my country as there is a growing number of companies setting up operations in China," said a 24-year-old female student of Beijing University who comes from ROK.

She added that a certificate of the Chinese Proficiency Test, or Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK), is important when seeking a job in a large company in ROK.

The HSK test, which began in Beijing in 1988, is national standardized test designed to assess foreign students' command of Chinese.

To date, the Office of the State Commission for the Chinese Proficiency Test has set up 44 testing centers in 27 Chinese cities, including Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions, and 55 centers in 24 other countries in Asia, Europe the Americas and Oceania.

Since 1991, a total of 380,000 people from 120 countries have taken the test in those centers, according to statistics from the Ministry of Education.

(Xinhua News Agency February 8, 2003)

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