Turkey's new craze in learning Chinese

Turkey's growing ties with China have generated a keener interest among the Turks in learning the Chinese language and culture that has never been seen before.

XinhuaUpdated: October 19, 2017

Turkey's growing ties with China have generated a keener interest among the Turks in learning the Chinese language and culture that has never been seen before.

"Learning the Chinese language is something that I've wanted for some time, because I'm interested in Asian cultures," Elif Aslan, a 16-year-old student of a private high school in Ankara, told Xinhua.

"Like the Turkish culture, the Chinese culture is also very rich, there are similarities in fact and I like it," she said with a smile, while her classmates nodded.

Aslan chose to study Chinese as a second foreign language as English is the compulsory foreign language the school requires its students to learn.

Turks now can learn Chinese in at least 10 universities across the country, mainly in big cities such as Istanbul and Ankara, as well as in private Chinese language teaching programs.

At the Cagri Dil Okulu (Cagri Language School) in downtown Ankara, courses are offered to middle-aged students who can study Chinese by interacting face to face with native Chinese teachers.

"We opened these courses some seven years ago. In the beginning, we had three or four students. But since four years ago, there has been an increase of interest in Chinese language, and now we have several classes of 15 pupils each," Bahar Ozturk, one of the managers of the Cagri Language School, told Xinhua.

"We have a class full of students who are passing a proficiency test here in Chinese," said Ozturk, explaining that the popularity of this language results from China's ever growing economic power in the world.

"People want to learn Chinese as communication practices in order to go there and get a job there, or start a company and trade with fellow Chinese companies," she said.

Since 2012, the China-Turkey ties have been growing steadily and, accordingly, the bilateral trade has witnessed a sharp rise. Regular exchange of visits by officials from the two countries also helped promote the cultural exchange between the two countries, located on the east and the west ends of the Asian continent.

China's direct investment in Turkey was valued at 642 million U.S. dollars in 2016 and is likely to balloon as China is working on many infrastructure projects in Turkey.

Turkey, a major regional player and G20 member, is also one of the hubs of the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China due to its geographic location, making it a natural point of confluence on the ancient Silk Road.

Another popular place for the Turks to learn Chinese language is the Confucius Institute located in the prestigious Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara.

The institute offers general Chinese language and business courses to both METU students and the public. It aims to introduce the Chinese culture, history, economy, politics and foreign policy to Turkey's academic community as well as to experts from other professions.

The institute launched for the first time in April a Chinese language course for the employees in the Office of the Turkish Prime Ministry. It became so popular that many other state institutions want to follow suit.

Du Yun, one of the headmasters of the institute since April 2016, told Xinhua that there are about 280 students currently learning Chinese at his institute.

"And there are another 1,400 primary and middle school students learning Chinese in Ankara at seven teaching sites", Du said.

He believed that the popularity of Chinese language in Turkey is due to the increasingly important global influence that China boasts.

Some Turkish students choose to learn Chinese language not only for the love of Chinese culture, but also because they want to study in China, or to conduct research on China's experience of development, Du said.

"And the main and ultimate goal is to find a job in a Chinese company or to work in China," he said.

Yusuf Islam Tuna, one of Du's students, is a good example.

Tuna fulfilled his dream of pursuing his education in China by obtaining his bachelor's degree in economics at METU, which enabled him to get a scholarship for joining a six-month intensive Chinese studying course in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, Fujian province.

After that, he was enrolled into a master degree program on Chinese economy at the Renmin University in Beijing.

"After mastering fully the language, I started my master's degree on Chinese economy in Renmin University and all of this started from taking lessons at the Confucius Institute in Ankara. It was a life change," Tuna said.

He was very thankful to his Chinese teachers in Ankara, not only for teaching him the language but also offering valuable assistance and guidelines on how to live and work in China.

"The role of the institute in realizing China's long-term goals is essential, and this establishment is concretely contributing to improving the China-Turkey relations," he said.