foreign language interest
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Foreign language interest

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Department of Korean at NUML
Islamabad - Arab Today

Pakistanis have lately discovered the importance of a well-known quote by freedom fighter Nelson Mandela: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

Many Pakistanis, eager for better jobs, foreign opportunities and brighter futures, are becoming proficient in a language other than their native Urdu and English language.

There was a time when Arabic and Persian were the only foreign languages Pakistanis could use. Arabic, traditionally, was learned as a religious duty and a medium to understand the Quran better. Persian was learned to develop knowledge, literary skills and woo ladies with romantic poetry. “Pakistan’s national poet, Allama Iqbal, has written primarily in Persian language, which was also the court language during Mughal Empire” explains Dr Mohammad Safeer, a Persian linguist. Pakistanis, however, drifted away from Arabic and Persian because of few prospects, no interaction and recognition at home and abroad.

Young Pakistanis are now passionately devoting their time to learn other languages. At the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) in Islamabad — Pakistan’s oldest and esteemed foreign language institute — classes of Chinese, German, French and Korean are crowded with students, says Dr Anwer Mahmoud, dean of Faculty Languages at NUML and PhD in German.

Language and culture are undeniably intertwined, says Dr Mahmoud. Cultural exchange programmes play a substantial role in instilling the love of language and promoting interaction among cultures.

Pakistan-China friendship and multicultural activities has certainly spurred interest in Chinese language. When the Chinese department was founded 44 years ago at NUML and classes began in 1970, there were two Chinese teachers and 13 students. This number has now swelled to dozens of teachers and almost 1,000 students, says Rukhsana Hassan recalling her early teaching days.

But why are so many Pakistani students keen to learn a language so different and usually considered difficult to learn?

Hassan, Assistant Professor of Chinese language, has a very logical explanation: “China is the economic powerhouse, so its language inevitably will be more economically valuable.” She added: “When Pakistan was founded, it was believed that English language skills can instantly get you a job, now it is only fair to say that Chinese language will open new avenues of development.”

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has invigorated not only economic but also cultural, social ties and amplified interest in Chinese language, agrees Nayyar Nawaz, Chinese language teacher.

Ma Xu, Chinese language teacher at Confucius Institute in Islamabad, says Pakistanis are reasonable learners. The enhanced awareness, people-to-people linkages and improved scholarship opportunities have shifted the trend towards Chinese language, he believes.

More than 14,000 Pakistani students are now pursuing higher studies in China, out of which “around 3,600 are studying on scholarship” in the year 2016, according to Zhao Lijian, Charge d’Affairs and Political Counselor of the Embassy of People’s Republic of China in Pakistan.

In Islamabad alone, many prominent institutes including NUST, COMSATS, City School, Beaconhouse School and Headstart School are teaching Chinese language.

Falak Naz, 20, however had a unique reason for learning Chinese language. “My brother is married to a Chinese girl, so I am learning the language to better communicate with my sister-in-law.”

Among European languages, German is gradually becoming popular and primarily sought for future studies, apprises the Head of German Language Department at NUML, Tausif Amira. During her 25-year teaching career, she has witnessed a huge shift towards German in Pakistan. “There has been a 100 per cent increase in number of students since 2012 with currently 500 students per year at NUML.” The German government’s welcoming policies, educative activities by Goethe-Institut (the official language and cultural centre), and tuition-free education in Germany are the reasons Pakistanis are encouraged to study German.

Another language fascinating Pakistanis is French — the language of culture, love and royalty. “French was once considered language of the elite, the lingua franca of Europe. That charm is no more there” but it still is a very useful language, says Dr Amna Niaz, French linguistic expert. “The trend is slightly declining but there are about 60 students per semester at NUML.” Higher studies and family sponsorship, is what drives most of the students to learn French. Alliance Française is the official organisation acquainting Pakistanis with French language and francophone culture.

To the surprise of many, a great number of young Pakistani male students are learning Korean. Department of Korean at NUML, established in 2006 is the pioneer Korean language institute in Pakistan. Dr Atif Faraz, Director of Islamabad King Sejong Institute, says the department had a modest start with three students in 2006 and has now reached up to 180 students per semester. “The main charm for students studying Korean is employment or training opportunities in South Korea”. However, frequent cultural activities and interaction by Korean Embassy has stimulated interest in the language.

Japanese Government has been involved in improving and deepening Pakistan-Japan cultural ties through exchanges in culture, sports, youth and education. Japan also assists language institutes in Pakistan by offering a language laboratory, training and donating books.

Turkish language had a rather late entry into Pakistani society, initiated by the opening of dozen of Pak-Turk International Schools and Colleges network in Pakistan. Today, there are more than around 10,000 students studying at 28 schools.

Chinese, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Turkish are the languages of the future, according to linguistic scholars.

Foreign languages have become an integral part of the globalised world. However, the focus of language education in the 21st century is less on grammar and memorisation and more on using language as a means to communicate and connect, according to Mahmoud. The rising trends of foreign language learning is heartening and empowering Pakistanis to truly become global citizens.

 

source : gulfnews

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