When asked to make a sentence with haishi, which literally translates as "had better" in her class at Gumilyov Eurasian National University Confucius Institute, Fariza Sagyndykova, a 17-year-old high school student, said in fluent Chinese: "If you want to know more about Chinese culture, you had better go to China in person".
The sentence came from her own experience. As the champion of the 2010 "Chinese Bridge" competition held in Kazakhstan, she gained a Confucius Institute scholarship to study at Xi'an International Studies University in northwestern China's Shaanxi province from June 2010 to June 2011.
China's rapid economic development over the last three decades has attracted many Kazakh young people to study in China or work for big Chinese companies, according to Yuan Mingsha, one of Chinese teachers at the institute.
Gulim Khafizova, 22, majoring in French at Gumilyov Eurasian National University is one of them.
"Considering Kazakhstan's close relations with international community, especially with China, I plan to go to China and gain a bachelor's degree in international economy or law there," said Khafizova, who has studied Chinese at the institute since it was established in 2007.
Currently, there are three Confucius Institutes in Kazakhstan. The latest one opened last June in the western city of Aktobe, where Chinese companies play a major role in the local economy and have an ever-increasing demand for local employees who can speak Chinese.
Li Junhui, Chinese headmaster of the Confucius Institute in Aktobe, said that the popularity of Chinese-language training centers has soared "as more and more Chinese enterprises invested here".
And a sign of the important role that Chinese investment plays in the area is that, among the 6,900 employees of China National Petroleum Corp's (CNPC) operations in Aktobe, there are only 117 Chinese nationals, accounting for less than 2 percent of the total workforce.
Akhan Sarbayev, 28, is one of the Kazakh nationals working in a management position for CNPC-Aktobe after learning Chinese for two years and three years of oil platform studies at China University of Petroleum from 2005 to 2010.
"A big company like CNPC provided me with both advanced platform technology and management skills," he said.
"Besides, I like communicating with people with different ethnic backgrounds."
Lira Yelmurat, 24, even gave up a position at the Kazakh Foreign Ministry to work at the project management office of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co in Almaty, the commercial hub of Kazakhstan.
"What's important to me is not the nationality of the people I work with, but that I can get lots of experience of management and public relations," she said.
But Chinese employers said their demand for local talents who know Chinese has yet to be fulfilled, especially after Kazakhstan tightened its regulations about the proportion of its nationals that have to be hired by foreign enterprises.
"We annually finance two local employees to study Chinese at the local Confucius Institute, who then go to Chinese universities specializing in energy, but the number is still not big enough to guarantee our operations can proceed smoothly here if Chinese management staff cannot get visas to work in Kazakhstan", said Wang Chaopu, vice-president of a Chinese oil platform company in Akotbe.
The 1,000-strong company has nearly 900 Kazakh employees and provided in financial assistance to the Confucius Institute in Akotbe last year.