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Language course makes impression (3)

By Cui Jia (China Daily)

09:04, April 18, 2012

"Necessary and helpful"

So far, 87 ministry-level officials have benefited from the program. Zhang Qingwei, the governor of Hebei province is one of them. "I sought an opportunity to attend the class in 2011. I think the learning is both necessary and helpful," said the 51-year-old politician, who added that as China further opens up to the world, meetings with foreigners will become more frequent and it's vital that political leaders are equipped with English-language skills.

"I like English, and I need it for my job, too. English is likely to become more important in the future," he said. According to Zhang, improving his English has helped him become more confident in the sphere of foreign affairs. "For example, it has allowed me to converse more easily with politicians from the United States," said Zhang, who recently visited the US with Vice-President Xi Jinping and attended both the US-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum and the US-China Governors Forum in February.

Improving his language skills has also helped to broaden his understanding at formal events. "On some occasions," Zhang said, "I will pay extra attention to my interpreter's expression and decide if his or her words are precise, and whether they have fully conveyed the emotions of the speaker."
"Leaning English can help officials to respect foreign cultures as well as our own diverse culture," said Zhou Wenzhang, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Governance. Zhou, who graduated from the course in 2008, is proud that he can vividly remember and recite the victory speech made by US President Barack Obama. His only regret is that few of the younger officials have joined the program, thereby missing an opportunity to utilize their skills over a longer period of time, "The ultimate goal is to help them serve and present the country more effectively," he said.

"All the senior officials in the class are accompanied by translators when they deal with foreign affairs, but using a translator is like having a walking stick. People should be able to walk on their own," he said.

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