A growing number of international trade experts in Argentina are interested in learning Chinese, reflecting China's expanding role in global commerce.
To meet the demand, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) foundation in Argentina will be offering a Chinese-language class for beginners starting in May.
Ezequiel Eborall, the foundation's head of strategic planning, said that China's increasingly prominent role in international trade and the interest that has generated among companies to expand their trade ties with the Asian nation led the ICBC foundation to offer the course as an additional tool in the formation of specialists in international trade.
"There's a lot of interest in learning China's language and culture," said Yesica Rossi, the foundation's head of outreach.
Learning Chinese is part of the larger process of becoming familiar with China's history and culture, which they see as "key for Argentine companies looking to enter the Asian market."
"The course is designed to be more than just a traditional language learning course," said Eborall. "It aims to bring ( students) closer to understanding and appreciating a different culture."
"We've seen that it is increasingly important to learn about the culture of other countries in doing international business. That's why we have given special emphasis to the training of specialists in international trade," added Rossi.
The course is divided into four modules: an introduction to the history and geography of China, and the Chinese language; the Hanyu Pinyin transcription system for phonetically writing down Mandarin using a modified Latin alphabet; basic grammar and vocabulary; and writing Chinese characters, or Hanzi.
China is Argentina's second-biggest trade partner, after Brazil, and the second-biggest market for Argentine agro-industrial products.
During a recent reception at China's embassy in Buenos Aires, marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, Ambassador Yang Wangming called for closer political bilateral ties through greater cooperation and people-to- people exchange.
In early February, China's President Xi Jinping and his visiting Argentine counterpart Cristina Fernandez agreed to strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two nations through a series of infrastructure projects, among other measures.
China is investing 4.714 billion U.S. dollars to build two damns in southern Argentina, and 2.099 billion dollars to renovate Argentina's Belgrano Cargas cargo railways, an essential step in boosting its agro-industrial exports.
The closer business tie is manifest in the DHL shipping lists that the containers exported from Argentina to China witnessed significant growth in the past five years.
The international logistic giant has thus launched a new website, headlined as DHL BUSINESS CHINA, to specially serve increasing Argentine business people who have an itch to try their fortune in the biggest emerging market.
Based on last year's experience, Eborall said he expects between 15 and 20 students to enroll in the May 7 to July 23 course, "the ideal number for studying a language from the beginning."
Argentine professor Federico Youtchak, a devotee of Chinese culture and language who has studied in China, will be teaching the class.