Currently, China’s population is 1.38 billion, so it is estimated that around 25% of the world’s total population speaks the Chinese language.
With China’s growing influence in the global landscape, more and more people are realizing the importance of understanding the nation and its people better.
That is why the interest in learning the Chinese language within China’s investment destinations is increasing rapidly, according to The Conversation.
It has even reached South Korea and a few countries in Africa. People from around the world are starting to believe that mastering Chinese will allow them to understand and appreciate Chinese norms, culture, and policies. Thus, facilitating business interactions between China and their countries.
Failure to understand the Chinese language can prevent a country from maximizing the full potential of an economic relationship with a powerhouse such as China.
This is especially true in Indonesia. Today, China is Indonesia’s largest trading partner and investor. That is why Chinese-speaking employees will be more competitive in the future human resources pool.
Indeed, employees who can understand and speak Mandarin will be needed by most, if not every, companies in the country.
Not all Chinese families in Indonesia can speak Chinese
There are about 7 million ethnic Chinese in Indonesia or about 3.3% of the population. However, fewer and fewer Chinese are learning Mandarin because it’s not ‘exciting’ enough.
This is the main effect of the political unrest from the past.
The New Order regime under President Suharto decided to freeze relations with China in 1967, in an attempt to contain the spread of communism.
Many policies were written and approved to close Chinese-language schools and to ban Chinese-written newspapers. In addition, everyone who is of Chinese descent must undergo naturalization which bore the decades-long stigma.
Unsurprisingly, this led to a decline in Chinese language skills among the Chinese in Indonesia. The feeling of no longer needing to learn the Chinese language emerged as most felt it’s a useless skill to have.
But in 1999, Indonesia’s fourth President, Abdurrahman Wahid, abolished the discriminatory policies against the Chinese. With that, learning the Chinese language boomed once more and Chinese-written newspapers were printed again.
Many schools even design their curricula with three main languages in mind; namely, Indonesian, English, and Chinese language. Some campuses even offer Chinese language courses.
Many Chinese language courses are now commonplace in four major cities of the country, including Jakarta, Surabaya in East Java, Bandung in West Java, and Meda in North Sumatra. By 2019, more courses have spread out to 20 provinces across Indonesia.
Chinese language skills for the future
Language is the key to understanding a different nation. It is a step towards overcoming cultural and linguistic barriers in Indonesian-Chinese relations.
By understanding their language, we are closer to getting to know Chinese norms and customs, how the Chinese do their business, and what their national and institutional interests are.
In the end, speaking Chinese is no longer just a matter of preparing for our children’s futures. On a broader scale, it is also assisting in shaping a more fruitful relationship between a country and China.