Tuesday 13 November 2018, 04:15 AM
Word by word, Xiamen picks up English as it prepares for BRICS summit
By Anjali Ojha | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 5/24/2017 1:56:14 PM
Word by word, Xiamen picks up English as it prepares for BRICS summit

Xiamen (China): It is in this part-island southeastern city that President Xi Jinping served as vice mayor from 1985 to 1988 and began his slow and steady climb to the country's top job. It's here he married folk singer Peng Liyuan. And it is here that word by methodical word, a large group of citizens of all ages is learning "tourist English" ahead of the BRICS Summit in September. Lin Lan, a 40-year-old teacher, guides her enthusiastic class through simple English phrases like "Welcome to China" and "I am Chinese".

The class is held every Thursday at 3 p.m. Among the students is 65-year-old Zhang Zhou Rong, who wants to learn English so that visitors during the BRICS summit feel welcomed. "I want to learn English for the BRICS summit," Zhou told this visiting IANS correspondent, testing her language skills. Lin Shurong, a leader at the community, said the senior citizens would like to take responsibility for the tourists when they come. "Xiamen is a popular tourist destination. Many foreigners will come for the BRICS meet. The senior citizens would like to take responsibility of the tourists," the 73-year-old woman said.

As part of China's Opening Up Policy under Deng Xiaoping, Xiamen became one of the original four Special Economic Zones opened to foreign investment. Xi became known as a strong advocate of foreign investment in China's coastal provinces. According to the locals, the city has seen an infrastructure boom since then. With a skyline dominated by skyscrapers, connectivity that now includes a bullet train, several bridges connecting to the mainland and undersea tunnels, sprawling green cover and serene beaches, Xiamen is indeed a tourist's paradise. In 2006, Xiamen was ranked as China's second-most suitable city for living, and in 2011, it was ranked as most romantic leisure city.

With the BRICS summit coming up, the city is eager to overcome what is one of the biggest barriers as far as foreigners are concerned -- language. Xiamen has a few signs in subways and at other public places which are in English, but mostly these are in Mandarin. Li Yongbin, from the Division of Culture and Publicity in the Xiamen Municipal People's Government, said a proposal has been sent for erecting more street signs in English. "More signs in English will be put up before the summit. There will also be announcements in buses in English," he added.

Despite the language barrier, the people on the streets are friendly and go the extra mile to help visitors. Many happily offer their phones to type queries using the English keyboard which are then translated into Mandarin. In other preparations for the summit, across the city, which boasts of an impressive green cover, new trees were being planted and pavements were being beautified. Yao Jianhong, the Head of Coordination for the BRICS Summit, told IANS that it was also a part of efforts to replenish the green cover destroyed by cyclone Meranti in 2016. "More than a million trees were uprooted," Yao said.

He said efforts were on to convert the city, which faces frequent cyclones and heavy rainfall, into a "sponge city" so that it does not suffer floods and the water is quickly drained away. Xiamen, which boasts of China's first under-sea tunnel, now has two more such being constructed to connect the island to the mainland. One of the two is expected to be ready by September before the BRICS summit. Chen Yiduan, the Deputy Director General of Xiamen port, the 8th-largest container port in China and the 16th-largest in the world, told IANS that the city will be beautified for the summit. "We will plant many flowers, the whole city will be beautified," Chen said.

He also said that holding the summit is likely to bring more business to the port. He expected the cruise business to go up, especially as guests and officials arrive for the summit. Asked about the other preparations for the summit, Chen said China has also learnt from the BRICS summit organised in India in 2016. "It is about cooperation among growing economies and development. With joint efforts we can make it a great success," he added.

Tags:

southeastern,BRICS,Xiamen,visitors,investment,Government

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