THE Senate on Feb 19 approved a motion that states: “in view of the growing collaboration between Pakistan and China under the China Pakistan EC, courses of the official Chinese language should be launched for all current and prospective Pakistani CPEC human resource in order to overcome any costly communication barriers.”

There was baseless criticism that Pakistan has adopted China’s mandarin as official language a month after replacing the US dollar with the yuan for bilateral trade. The reality is somewhat different.

The popularity of a language rises or falls pari passu with a country’s place in the comity of nations. Historically, English, French, Russian, Arabic and mandarin were the languages of imperialistic or conqueroring states. Shifts in power triggered shifts in the status of languages. English continues to hold sway as it has dominated the commercial, scientific, commercial, scientific and technological fields.

Sir Syed understood the link between power and language. Britain and France insisted upon enforcing English and French in their colonies. During the heyday of the Soviet Union, Russian was the lingua franca from Prague to Hanoi.

After the demolition of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the Germans began to take pride in speaking German at international forums. People follow language of the dominant power. In the subcontinent, the English language supplanted Persian, the language of the Moghuls. So much so, that that Persian is now archaic in South Asia.

Hong Kong’s effervescence for mandarin is due to the rise of China. When, around 2050, China displaces the USA as the world’s premier economy, English is likely to give way to mandarin as the world’s new lingua franca.

In Pakistan, Sindh set the trend. The NED Engineering University and many private school systems have started teaching mandarin. The Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority, Punjab, offers free language courses for students of all ages. I have seen many Tevta classrooms packed and many students with visual impairments keen on learning it.

I strongly feel that Pakistan which is facing the Damocles sword in the form of sanctions should promote mandarin.

In other words, we are open for business, saying Nee Haw to Chinese investment in our country.

Amjed Malik

Islamabad

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2018

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