China’s Implementation of Language Strategy to Support the Development of OBOR

Date:2016-08-25 10:00  Author:admin   Click:
“The Belt and Road” initiative developed by China has made cross-border trade, infrastructure construction, new financial institutions hot topics. At the same time, it is noted that there are many different languages spoken by countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt and these nations’ cultures diverse a lot. Talking only in English and other international languages is far from enough for the member countries to communicate freely. Reporters from Xinhua News Agency learned that China had begun the implementation of language strategy for the development of One Belt and one Road.

29 neighboring countries with nearly a thousand languages and dialects

The ancient Silk Road was not only a channel for trade, but also a bridge for cultural exchange. The coverage area of the initiative is primarily parts of Asia, Europe and Africa, encompassing around 60 countries with half the global population, involving a variety of language and culture. 
According to Guo Fenglan, professor of College of Humanities in Beijing Language and Culture University, there are 29 countries along the B&R route, including direct and indirect bordering countries, which have turned out to be the focus of linguistic study in China. However, “it is a region with most diverse languages in the world, and languages and dialects used in neighboring countries and regions nearly add up to one thousand, increasing the difficulty of language research”.
Former deputy director of the State Language Commission and Party Secretary of Beijing Language and Culture University, Li Yuming said that in these countries, English and other international languages are spoken to communicate for general purposes, but it is far from enough if we want to be a member of the local population, get a comprehensive understanding of neighboring countries with their ethnic cultures and modes of thinking, and go closer to the local people. Instead, we should manage to communicate with local people in their preferred native language. The implementation of the “one belt, one road” initiative requires a large number of professionals who are masters of both international language and local language. “But unfortunately, talents with mastery of these less common languages are scarce”, said Li Yuming.

Professional agencies creating “Language Internet”

Li Yuming believes that to build a “community of destiny” requires close communication and relation among nations which is the precondition for countries along the route to accept and support the OBOR initiative proposed by China. It plays an important role in establishing close relationship that we should have no obstacle in understanding each other’s language and culture.
In order to improve the national language ability and implement language strategy, Beijing Language and Culture University initiated the establishment of “Collaborative innovation center of language and culture around China” in autumn 2013, actively studying the language of neighboring countries and the border areas of China, with the purpose of training talents who study and master important languages and establishing “Language Internet.”
According to the deputy director of the center, Guo Fenglan, research on the languages and dialects spoken in the countries and regions along the route has been emphasized since the “The Belt and Road initiative was proposed. Collaborative innovation center of language and culture around China has initiated or prepared to initiate investigation and research in the languages spoken in more than 40 countries. In the last two years, through domestic and international exchanges and cooperation, the center has been engaged in training talents who can not only do research but also master the use of important languages. The center also works to promote Chinese language and culture Chinese in the neighboring countries, creating database of languages and cultures in those countries, build national language strategy think-tank.
Moreover, the Belt and Road initiative also greatly expands the scope of “neighboring countries “. Arabia and some African countries are included in the scope of the study of the Guo Fenglan’s team.
In addition to BLCU, dozens of scholars from PLA College of Foreign Languages, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology and other teaching and research institutions are also involved in this complicated and huge work.

National language ability is a matter of national security

Experts pointed out that promoting the “The Belt and Road” construction, preparation must be made to face the cultural differences and cultural conflicts. The realization of “The Belt and Road” initiative relies on the harmony of diverse cultures.
Li Yuming said that Chinese language research institutions are building College of Chinese Language and Research Institute of The Belt and Road with local Chinese Academy in Yunnan Lincang, studying language and culture in two-way communication a with Burma. The move was strongly supported by the local government.
"Language research is not limited to the static language itself, instead, it requires a deeper understanding of the local culture through a country’s language habits, language policy,” said by Guo Fenglan.
Li Yuming said: “All the time, there are unstable factors effecting China’s peripheral security. In order to improve the understanding of the surrounding countries, to better protect national security, China has always attached importance to the study of the surrounding nations’ languages.” It includes the construction of the language capacity, that is, the total number of languages a country can understand and use. This is an important part of the national language ability.
Guo Fenglan also said that the construction of the national language ability should not ignore the study of languages popular in frontier and bordering areas of China, parts of which are also spoken by other bordering nations, especially those native languages of nations along the “Silk Road Economic Belt” route, such as Kazakh, Mongolian. At present, China has initiated the research and study in language situations in bordering areas in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet, Yunnan and Guangxi. According to her introduction, two series The Language Situation in Chinas Neighboring Countries and The Language Situation in Chinas border which are written on the basis of research in bordering areas and countries are to be published, hoping to provide advice for language strategy and language support for the construction of “The Belt and Road” .