By Kenny Chee
HUAYU (Mandarin) is becoming cool among working adults in Singapore.
Language schools and organisations here that offer Mandarin classes for adults are enrolling more students, many of whom are professionals and executives keen to brush up on the language for use at work.
Many of them work in the finance, information technology, marketing and services sectors.
Mr Chew Kheng Fui, senior manager for sales and marketing at the Singapore Chinese Chamber Institute of Business, said that more companies and working adults are beginning to appreciate the value of effective bilingualism.
"With China rising as a global power, and many businesses here involved with the Chinese market, companies want their key employees to be able to communicate effectively with either their Chinese partners or clients," he said.
Ms Suzlina Rahman, business- development manager for Cambridge Institute, added that companies planning to post their employees to China also send them for Mandarin classes.
Mr Chew said that the increase in enrolment at his institute could also be due partly to the introduction of a government grant in January that subsidises its Mandarin course fees by over 90 per cent for Singaporeans and permanent residents.
The institute saw 50 per cent more professionals and executives, mostly Singaporeans and permanent residents, applying for its business Mandarin courses in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year.
Despite not having grant schemes, the Cambridge Institute saw 20 per cent more professionals and executives, mainly Singaporeans, taking up Mandarin classes in the same period.
Other schools noted that most of their growth in student numbers came from expatriates.
In the first half of the year, inlingua School of Languages has seen an 80 to 90 per cent jump in the number of expatriates enrolling for its Mandarin courses, while Hua Language Centre reported a rise of nearly 14 per cent.
Singaporean engineer Chen Yanshi, 26, took an intermediate Mandarin course at the Singapore Chinese Chamber Institute of Business to prepare for a China business trip next month.
"I realised there were a lot of business terms in Mandarin that I didn't understand," he said. He is close to completing his almostfour- month-long course.
"What I've learnt will definitely help me communicate better when doing business with Chinese companies," he said.
MS SHALINI SAMUEL, 29
A professional English and Mandarin interpreter/translator.
English, Mandarin and some German.
MS SAMUEL, an Indian Singaporean from a mostly English-speaking family, surprises people with her fluent Mandarin.
Based in Melbourne, she interprets court hearings and hospital procedures.
She also translates patent applications and business proposals into Chinese.
Her Mandarin was honed by her parents, and by watching Mandarin movies.
She was inspired by actress Audrey Hepburn's role as an interpreter in the Hollywood classic Charade to become one herself.
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