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Top officials go back to school for English

By Wang Hongyi  (China Daily)

12:18, September 24, 2011

SHANGHAI - More senior officials in the city have joined English training courses after the successful experience of last year.

On Friday, 30 senior officials, most of them deputy heads of districts or deputy bureau chiefs, started their English courses. They are the second batch of trainees in an eight-year English-training program for government officials.

The program, initiated by the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee's organization department in 2010, aims to help local officials adapt to the city's goal of joining international metropolises by improving their ability to communicate internationally.

In the first year, nearly 30 officials took the English course, and 17 of them have successfully completed all of the training.

"After one-year systematic study, many officials have gained a lot in English ability," Wang Yu, deputy head of the organization department, said at the opening ceremony of the new school year.

"The government has recognized the importance of language in international communication and encourages more officials to participate," Wang said.

Under the program, trainees receive tailor-made study plans based on their abilities. Native speaker one-to-one training, social spoken English clubs and other activities are included, according to the training group Wall Street English.

To motivate the officials to work hard, the training courses' provider introduced a stricter assessment system this year. Trainees who fail to reach the learning target will be dropped, making room for other officials to learn English.

"It's really difficult for them to learn a language because these officials are very busy. We hope that they will be motivated and work harder this way," said Paul Blackstone, CEO of Wall Street English China.

Chen Kai, 40, deputy director of the Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office, has already finished his one-year course.

"I had learned some English before the program, but I mostly focused on reading and writing. The training program gave me a chance to improve my spoken English," Chen said.

"In my daily work, I come in contact with many foreign organizations and people. Direct communication, without interpreters, can be very effective and reduce the distance between us," he said.

The city began taking steps to help its officials improve their English abilities as early as 2002. Since then, more than 200 senior officials have participated in English courses. The new eight-year program is expected to train an additional 240 senior officials.

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