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August 5, 2009

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Officials learn languages

MORE than 50 publicity officials in Kunming, Yunan Province, began studying English in a one-year program that asks the city's government workers to learn five foreign languages.

They will spend two hours in class three nights each week learning English as well as Laotian, Burmese, Thai and Vietnamese, plus putonghua, standardized Mandarin, and computer skills, yesterday's Guangzhou Daily reported.

The ambitious training is designed to help the city attract more foreign investment, especially from Asian nations.

Kunming's Party Secretary Qiu He initiated the training program after learning that the city was short of speakers of these languages.

Kunming is the capital of Yunnan Province, which borders Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

Qiu was told that there are no more than 200 people trained each year in the city to speak these Asian languages.

Qiu said the language and computer skills will better equip grassroots government workers in attracting foreign investors, particularly those from Southwest Asia and South Asia - Kunming's major targets for foreign investment. Qiu said he's studying Vietnamese.

All government workers under the age of 50 are covered by the training program. They need to master 700 frequently used sentences by this October including 300 sentences of English and 100 sentences each of the other four foreign languages.

When the training concludes, the workers must sit tests. If they fail, they will continue the training. Test results may affect chances at promotion, according to Wang Youxiang, deputy secretary-general of Kunming municipal government.

Putonghua and computer skills training will carry over to next year, Wang said.

After that, Kunming's government workers will use putonghua rather than local dialects as their working language, he said.


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