United Nations celebrates Chinese Language Day

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If you’ve ever considered picking-up Chinese as a foreign language, you’re in good company. At the United Nations, interest in Mandarin has steadily grown over the years, as has demand for U.N. news in Chinese. And, as the world body marks Chinese Language Day, CGTN’s U.N. correspondent Liling Tan looks at what’s driving this trend.

Mandarin is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. And as China’s visibility expands globally, so too has the interest in learning Mandarin as a foreign language.

Sheila Perosa works at the U.N. Secretary General’s press office, and is enrolled in the U.N.’s Chinese Language program.

One of her teachers is Dr. Yong Ho, the coordinator of the U.N. China Study Programme, and previously the U.N.’s Chinese Language Supervisor.

Dr. Ho says since 2002, he has seen interest in Mandarin at the U.N. increase nearly three-fold.

“One of the reasons is the role that China plays in international affairs,” he said. “Particularly in the setting of the U.N., China is one of the permanent members of the Security Council and there’s a strong interest among staff members and diplomats in Chinese society, in Chinese economics, and in Chinese politics.”

The demand for U.N. news in Chinese has also grown dramatically, explained Li Maoqi, who leads the Chinese News Unit at the U.N.’s Department of Public Information.

“We have more and more people who are using the internet,” Li said. “We have more and more people who want to understand what China is doing here at the U.N., particularly in the perspective of the Chinese audience. They want to use their own language to find out what U.N. is operating, what the Chinese delegation is doing here at the U.N. through their own language.”

Mandarin is among eight languages used by the U.N.’s News Services to provide U.N. news content to the world – the six official U.N. languages, as well as Portuguese and Kiswahili.

The ability to communicate in multiple languages is a key tenet of the United Nations, and in this time of deep divisions over multiple crises – from Syria to Iran to the Korean peninsula – the belief is that speaking each other’s languages can make a difference in bridging differences.

Speaking the official languages of the UN: Chinese Language Day


你们好! Last week, the United Nations marked Chinese Language Day. And that meant our our aspiring multilinguist Liling Tan once again tested her skills at yet another language. For this second part of our U.N. languages webseries, Liling reports in Mandarin, on the growing interest in Chinese language at the U.N., and what it tells us about China’s increasing visibility on the global stage.