Career Focus

Career Focus

Rising demand for Mandarin professionals

Even as communist China is transforming into the largest market globally for English language learning, corporates worldwide are experiencing the need for Mandarin Chinese proficient professionals

All the major think tanks of the western world are unanimous that within the next quarter century the People’s Republic of China (pop. 1.3 billion) aka communist China, will overtake the United States to emerge as the world’s largest powerhouse economy. Therefore every corporate of any consequence, including Indian companies and firms, are scrambling to establish businesses and factories in China.

Consequently even as the heirs of the ancient Middle Kingdom are enthusiastically transforming into the largest market globally for English language learning, corporates worldwide are experiencing a need for Chinese — especially Mandarin Chinese — proficient professionals, to aid and abet their ambitious China plans, proposals and operations.

While upscale universities, colleges and culture promotion organisations such as Alliance Francaise, Max Mueller Bhavan, and British Council have been active teaching their languages, recently business schools have also jumped on the language instruction bandwagon. This is consequent upon a growing number of corporates — especially IT, pharma and consumer goods multinationals — expressing a preference for engineers and MBAs with knowledge of foreign languages. Therefore apart from German, Spanish and French, B-schools have begun teaching Mandarin Chinese to genext eager-to-learn students.

For instance last year, the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Mumbai, introduced Mandarin as an optional language for MBA students — an initiative which has received excellent response. Moreover for its MBA (Pharma) students, learning spoken and written Mandarin as well as Chinese culture is compulsory throughout the duration of the two year course.

Although perhaps the pioneer in introducing Mandarin study programmes, NMIMS is not an exception. Other front-line B-schools in Mumbai including the S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research and SIES College of Management Studies, have also introduced Mandarin Chinese courses as an elective. Chinese language enthusiasm is spreading across the country. Amity B-school, Delhi and the Fortune Institute of International Business have also introduced Mandarin. Down south in Chennai, Mandarin is a compulsory language at the Great Lakes Institute of Management (GLIM), where students are also taught the history and culture of China.

On-the-ball B-schools apart, India’s most renowned institution of higher learning for language degree programmes is the JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) School of Languages, Delhi. JNU offers a five-year integrated programme in several foreign languages including Mandarin Chinese to Plus Two school leavers. Admission is on the basis of an entrance test of the objective type. Delhi University also offers a Masters programme in Mandarin. Likewise Viswa Bharati, Shantiniketan offers a four-year bachelor’s degree in Mandarin Chinese.

Employment prospects for Chinese literates are on the rise as teachers, translators in IT, pharma and chemical companies; translators for movie titles, scientific research projects; as customer service executives in call centres; interpreters; tourist guides etc, and a fresher can earn a starting salary of around Rs.50,000 per month. After garnering some experience, the sky is the limit in terms of remuneration.

"Graduate and postgraduate study programmes in the Chinese languages are tough. One has to master at least 3,000 characters of the script to be proficient, which is why many students drop out from these courses half-way. Therefore there’s a great dearth of talent and it’s particularly difficult to get qualified people to teach Mandarin," says Nitu Anand, who teaches the language to MBA (Pharma) students at NMIMS as visiting faculty. When not teaching, Anand is a language testing engineer at Smartware, a multinational software corporate.

An alumna of Shantiniketan’s Viswa Bharati University where she read for her BA (Mandarin Chinese) degree in 2001, Anand pressed on to acquire MA and M.Phil degrees in applied linguistics from Hyderabad University. "While doing my M.Phil, as part of my course I had to do a six-month project at the International Institute of Information Technology in Hyderabad, where I learned to use Mandarin Chinese in software applications. This helped me in landing my first job in 2005 at Smartware, a US-based company where I handle both traditional (Taiwanese) and simplified (Mandarin) Chinese software. I’m interested in technology, and software translated into Chinese is very much in demand," says Anand.

Coterminously with using her Chinese language expertise to enable software applications, Anand enjoys her weekend teaching assignment at NMIMS. "In the first semester I taught the MBA (Pharma) students conversational Mandarin, and in the other semesters I’m teaching them written Chinese. Indian students are showing great interest in the language because of its great potential professionally," says Anand.

Indra Gidwani (Mumbai)