Unlocking doors with Mandarin fluency


Testing his knowledge: Year 4 pupil Muaz Harith reading in Mandarin during a Science lesson while his teacher Tam Kai Shan looks on at SJK(C) Kampung Baru Paroi. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Many parents, including those who are non-Chinese, have opted to send their children to a Chinese school in the hopes of expanding their children’s opportunities in the future.

This is especially so as China has rapidly become a global economic powerhouse that is still expanding.

But what is the reality on the ground? Are employers more keen to hire workers with the added advantage of being fluent in Mandarin?

Having an extra language in your arsenal is always a positive thing in terms of employability, according to business leaders from various chambers of commerce and industry in the country.

While Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor president Datuk Ng Yih Pyng agreed that being able to speak Mandarin gives one more options in terms of employment, he said proficiency in any foreign language is valuable in today’s more connected world.

It also depends on the specific business and its dealings, he added.

“It is always good for one to learn more languages, regardless of race. A lot of schools also offer French or Spanish.

“I think it all depends on the company. If my company specialises in dealing with Japan, for example, it would be good for me to have candidates who speak Japanese.

“Your supplier and your customer will feel more comfortable and the chances of misunderstandings will be lower,” he said.

Ng pointed out that there are other considerations when hiring an employee aside from their language proficiency.

“Language is important. But there are also more skill sets out there.

“So it really depends on a lot of factors. But being able to communicate in Mandarin is an advantage,” he said.

Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia president Tan Sri Low Kian Chuan believes Mandarin fluency will indeed improve someone’s chances of getting hired in China-oriented businesses and Chinese-populated countries such as China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“Being able to communicate in their native language enhances communication and cultural understanding, develops connection and fosters trust, which are valuable in building stronger relationships and conducting business effectively,” he said.

He cited the example of the Malaysian tourism industry, where mastering Mandarin could help tourism practitioners such as tour agencies and tour guides provide value-added services and tour experiences for tourists from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Concurring, Christina Tee, president of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry, highlighted that China is a big economic region now, so it is almost certain that being fluent in Mandarin will give these job seekers a higher potential of getting employed.

Those who learn an extra language tend to have very good communication skills as well, which will give them even more of an edge in getting hired, she added.

“They definitely stand a higher chance at getting better opportunities internationally because they have opened themselves up to a different kind of market,” she said.

This is the final part of Media in Arms’ special report series “SJKC: Reality for Non-Chinese students”, which explores the experience of non-Chinese students in Chinese schools.

Media in Arms is a media collaboration comprising five mainstream media outlets: Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Daily, Malay daily Sinar Harian, local news broadcaster Astro Awani, Tamil newspaper Malaysia Nanban and The Star, which formed this initiative in February 2022 to share resources and collaborate on diversified news content.

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