NAYPYIDAW — Citizens shouldn’t be surprised if Burma’s lawmakers are heard greeting each other with ‘Ni Hao!’ or saying ‘Xie Xie!’ next year: nearly 100 members of Parliament have enrolled in a Chinese language course slated to start in 2017.
The language classes will be the first for many parliamentarians; the program is supported by the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon and the Chinese Consulate in Mandalay. There was no such course for the previous Parliament, one that was dominated by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and which had close ties with China.
“Knowing Chinese will help us understand China and vice versa,” Dr. Kyaw Than Tun, who is organizing the Chinese proficiency training, told The Irrawaddy. “It will also facilitate cultural exchange and cooperation between our two countries. The language training is aimed at facilitating improved bilateral relations.”
The Chinese class will be conducted inside Parliament, and certificates will be given to students upon completion of the course. There may also be the potential for cultural visits to China, said Dr. Kyaw Than Tun, who is also the chairman of Myanmar Association of China Alumni.
“It is not a bad idea to learn Chinese since China is our neighbor and also a superpower,” said Dr. Kyaw Than Tun, adding that instructors from the University of Foreign Languages in Rangoon would teach the lawmakers.
As the current session of Parliament will end Dec. 21, lawmakers hope to start the Chinese course when the next session begins early in 2017.
“I have enrolled because I think it’s always good to know a language,” said Lower House lawmaker U Aung Hlaing Win of Mingaladon Township. “And it is also partly because my lawmaker friends will also attend it. And I think it is better to be taught by native speakers rather than Burmese instructors.”
Dr. Hla Moe, secretary of the parliamentary rights committee, also expressed his support for a Chinese language course.
“Those who are interested in languages should attend it. Chinese is one of the official languages of the UN. And we will be able to learn their culture and literature,” he said.
Since the NLD government came to power in 2016, some lawmakers have also studied an English proficiency course that was organized with assistance from the UN.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.