One fine, i.e. muggy, September morning in Karachi, education lovers in the Sindh government decided that Mandarin should be taught at the secondary school level, and perhaps even be made mandatory, come 2013.
Why such haste, only the gods who ordained the move can tell. From the government’s perspective it perhaps makes sense because of our rampant failure in teaching Sindhi, Urdu and English effectively, indicating that another language should now be given a shot. And why not Mandarin, which nobody here really knows? Even if we fail to teach this great language, only the odd Chinese who comes to Pakistan to help build roads or dams or run our ports will know how well our children speak, or don’t speak, his language.
It is thus with some sense of practicality that Sindh’s children and the teachers who have failed them in developing other language skills will try their hands at a new tongue. Maybe Mandarin is easier to teach and learn and sounds yummy in your mouths, like the many culinary delicacies from that great land, even if it turns out to be just as many miles apart as the Peking duck served in Beijing and Karachi. Just like Pakistani Chinese food is a fare all its own, so will be the ‘Chinese’ that will be taught here.
It only goes to show how versatile the language of our very dear friends is, which is why there exist so many dialects of Mandarin; why not start a Pakistani Mandarin too? Even if it is not made a compulsory subject due to some Indian-Zionist-American conspiracy, we should still give it a shot as an elective subject: look at the impressive number of Arabic and Persian scholars we have produced in that category.
— Murtaza Razvi is the editor of Dawn magazines