Chinese New Year Tiny tots of Foremarle School at Al Barsha South perform Monkey King to mark Chinese New Year celebrations organised by Chinese Language Institute at the school permises. Image Credit: Photo Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

Dubai: Language can reduce the gap between cultures and the Chinese Language Institute (CLI) in Dubai is attempting to do just that by promoting the Chinese language among the UAE populace.

According to the founder and Head of CLI, Lucy Chuang, an increasing number of Emiratis and other nationalities are taking an interest in learning Mandarin, the official Chinese language.

The interest was apparent at an event celebrating the Chinese New Year at Foremarke School on Saturday, where dozens of students from various nationalities showcased their Chinese language skills through a series of shows.

“We have around 200 people, from young schoolchildren to businessmen, learning Mandarin. I can say around 20 have already mastered the language and can now fluently speak Mandarin,” said Lucy.

Mandarin is not one of the easiest languages to master. It takes around 4-5 years on an average to speak it fluently, but according to Chuang, China’s growing influence and strong trade relationship with various countries, including the UAE, is compelling people to learn Chinese.

Among the schools offering Chinese language courses are Dubai International Academy and Foremarke School, while a programme is being undertaken at Dubai Ladies College as well.

The UAE is home to more than 250,000 Chinese, most of whom are involved in a variety of trades and businesses.

An important hub for Chinese products, the UAE is China’s second largest trading partner and biggest export market in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Last year, bilateral trade reached well over $50 billion (Dh183.5 billion)

Chinese Consul General to Dubai, Li Lingbing, who attended the Chinese New Year celebration, hailed the strategic partnership between the UAE and China.

Speaking to Gulf News, she said: “The UAE and China are strategic partners and share a deep bond. The partnership got a major boost following last year’s visit of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to China.”

Lingbing, who speaks fluent Arabic, also reiterated the importance of learning languages to reduced the gap between cultures.

“Globally, there are more than 40 million people who are learning Mandarin. It reflects the growing influence China has and people’s eagerness to do business and make social exchanges with China,” she added.

The Chinese year of the monkey begins on February 8 and is being celebrated with much fanfare in Chinese-dominated areas such as Dragonmart as well at Burj Al Arab, which is popular with Chinese tourists.