On learning Chinese (and Spanish and English) in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil, for the 2014 World Cup

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This article in Portuguese goes over some of the linguistic preparations taking place in Manaus, Amozonas, Brazil, where one of the stadiums being constructed for the 2014 World Cup is located. The article cites the 'complexity' of the language as one reason why municipal workers will only be learning the basics of Mandarin, but it's more unfamiliarity than complexity. A short-term intensive Chinese course given to Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese people for example could focus entirely on how to pronounce terminology shared with Chinese (and a few basics of grammar and word order) and end up with a vocabulary of a thousand or more words by the end of a few weeks. For example:

--- Do you use denwa (電話) in Chinese? Yes, it's diànhuà. Mainlanders simplify it as 电话.
--- Can you use 行 (iku) to mean go in Chinese? No, in Chinese this character means okay (xíng) - to go you use the character for saru (to leave, 去る) and pronounce it qù (instead of kyo).
--- Can you use the word hikooki (飛行機 ) in Chinese to mean airplane? Almost - take out the middle character  (and simplify the hanzi for mainlanders) and you have 飞机 (fēijī).
--- Can you use the word tenki (天気) in Chinese? Just about - simplify it (天气) and pronounce it as tiānqì and you're good.

Anyway, to the article:
The increase of Chinese companies with a presence in Manaus, along with the growing number of tourists leaving China to meet the Amazon, has led to growth in the provision of Mandarin language courses. Still available only in a small number of institutions, the learning of the language is also motivated by the World Cup in 2014 in the city.

Mindful of this, muncipal agent Elom de Oliveira began studying Mandarin last week...in the second semester of study Elom will resume a Spanish course that was interrupted...To begin studying the Chinese language, he and 46 others enrolled in the first basic Mandarin course sponsored by the Fundação Escola de Serviço Público Municipal (FESPM).

The free course is part of the "Training Program for the 2014 World Cup" (Programa de Capacitação para a Copa 2014)...besides Mandarin, the program also offers classes in English and Spanish in four levels.

The director of FESPM (Angelo Bulbol) explained that the classes had a duration of 78 hours. "We cannot ignore China's growth. It is imperative that professionals consolidate their careers by mastering Mandarin, which since 2009 is among the most requested by municipal employees."

She admitted that due to the complexity of the language, over the three months the classes will be focused on a general knowledge of culture, such as greetings and manners, weather conditions, tourist spots in the country, ethics, money and principal verbs.

She said that it is possible that the Foundation will offer intermediate and advanced Mandarin courses, but it will depend on the performance of current students in the class.

Data from Amazonastur shows that Chinese tourists to Amazonas grew by 6.1% in 2011 compared to the year before (10.6 million in 2010, 11.3 million in 2011).


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