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Why Mandarin losing its charm in India | India News

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NEW DELHI: In April this year, Vashibased Sumita Karmakar was supposed to travel to China, the womb of the beautiful, grammarless language she has been teaching for four years now. But then Covid-19 would soon rob her of more than just her virgin trip abroad. A commerce graduate who learnt Mandarin on a whim in college a few years ago, Karmakar used to love teaching the official language of mainland China to an Andheri class full of Gujarati businessmen and confused college students such as her former self, seven days a week, six hours a day. Today, work takes up merely two virtual hours a day as her class has shrunk from 40 to five, making her weekends so painfully free that she calls up colleagues out of boredom: “Hello, how are you? Can I teach you some Mandarin?”
Once a sought-after language, Mandarin is losing its signature spell over Mumbai’s men of enterprise. The decline began in June this year when the economic toll of Covid-19 conspired with the border clash to puncture the enthusiasm of learners. Stoked further by government crackdowns on Chinese apps, the downtrend has upset the language’s erstwhile status as a rite of passage of every entrepreneur hoping to cash in on low production costs in China.
Many foreign language classes — barring a couple of institutes such as Inchin Closer and VZone that have successfully moved online — will tell you that new admissions for Mandarin are so rare that Korean, the language favoured by K-Pop-addled Gen Z-ers, is more popular now.
Anand Prakash of Andheri’s Pacific Institute of Language Classes reports a 90% drop in enquiries for Mandarin while Stuti Chawlani of International Academy of Languages or IAOL pegs the nosedive at 80%. From over 25 potential leads a month in each centre in Ghatkopar and Thane, IAOL now gets around five leads each month in each centre, says Chawlani.
“People are showing a separate dislike towards Chinese as compared to any other language,” she says, attributing this to a cocktail of reasons including pandemicinduced anti-China sentiment. “People involved in import-export and multinational corporations with stakeholders in China and Singapore have lost interest in learning the language. Travel restrictions and health concerns have caused students wishing to study in Beijing and Singapore to either decide against or postpone their plan,” adds Chawlani.
Instead of eight new batches over eight months, Vrushti Balad, a Mandarin trainer at Second Tongue language institute in Vashi, finds herself teaching only three this season. These batches, she says, chiefly comprise students interested in working as liaison officers in Mandarinspeaking countries outside of mainland China. Besides its recent expulsion from the National Education Policy as a language to be taught in schools, what has also eroded Mandarin’s “soft power”— Ballad points out — is the termination of co-operation between the US College Board and Confucius Institute Headquarters, which conducts international Mandarin examinations. “You have to be agile in this market,” says Nazia Vasi, founder and CEO of Inchin Closer, which came out with an interactive app in October whose features teach the language by giving users the option of moving the story ahead. “We’ve also got native Chinese speakers as teachers on board,” says Vasi. While Chawlani hopes the impending vaccination will restore Sino-India relations as well as Mandarin’s former glory in the next quarter, Karmakar of Cambridge Institute Of Foreign Languages misses laughing at the innocent Chinese innuendoes and travel misadventures of Gujarati traders in her class eager to negotiate their way through the electronics market of Guangzhou.

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