“Z-ou, D-ao.” In a spacious, bright classroom, a teacher is teaching pinyin, Chinese’s phonetic alphabet, to a class of expats living in the city.
“My Chinese has improved a lot since studying here.” Moussa from Guinea is a businessman engaged in large-scale purchases. After learning Chinese for two years at the school on Dengfeng Street, of Guangzhou’s Yuexiu District, he can now speak quite fluently, confidently and with quite standard pronunciation.
In recent years, China’s standing on the world stage has continuously improved. Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong and one of China’s economic powerhouses, has been seeing a boom in the number of expats from all over the world choosing to settle here. Statistics from the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau show that as of December 25, 2017, the number of expats living in Guangzhou reached 82,714; a steadily increasing trend.
In order to cater to the actual needs of expats, Guangzhou has actively explored new modes of management and services.
A staff of the Foreign Affairs Service Center in Dengfeng Community is teaching Chinese to expats（photoed by Wenxiang Liang）
Teaching Chinese for free
“The relatively low business costs in Guangzhou make it very convenient for me to sell home appliances.” Abraham from Ethiopia likens himself to a “migrant bird”, meaning he travels to Guangzhou to do appliance trades about 4 times a year. This year marks the fifth year since he first came to China, but he worries that his Chinese is still not fluent. “I think studying Chinese is very necessary because it helps me to do business.”
In fact, in Guangzhou there are many expats like Abraham who are eager to study Chinese. The Chinese Learning School, one of the most distinctive services offered by the Foreign Affairs Service Center of Dengfeng Community, has been widely welcomed by expats in Guangzhou.
Founded in 2012, it receives over 5,000 people every year. From January 2018, its opening hours have been adjusted to 3:30-5:00 pm Monday to Friday. The courses will be set up on the basis of student numbers and their requirements based on ability in the language.
Nine months ago, when Mallion had just arrived to the Dengfeng Street community from Mali, she knew nothing about Chinese language or culture. Later, through the introduction of her friends, she came to study at the Chinese Learning School. “I attend class if I have time, and now I can master a daily conversation.” she said, “I’ll come here for help if I have any problems. It’s as warm as my home.”
Wang Haige, a postgraduate student at Sun Yat-sen University, is a project manager at the Foreign Affairs Service Center in Dengfeng Community. Having mastered English, French and Mandarin, he is known by expats as person they can communicate with and trust.
According to Wang, one of the goals of the Chinese Learning School was to make sure expats can have simple Chinese conversations with local residents in Guangzhou. “For businessmen who come here to study Chinese, their wishes are to master daily communication but have less interest in writing.” Wang said.