Multilingual education is booming in China, and the sector’s growth prospect for international languages is absolutely stunning. Thanks to Jacqueline Plessis and Wanling Liang, the educational team of the French Embassy in Beijing, I had several interesting exchanges with two Chinese experts on language education whom agreed to be interviewed for my podcast Révolution bilingue:
– Mr. Yu Zhonggen, Professor of English at Tsinghua University whose domain of research is English as a second language;
– Mrs. Zhu Yanhua, Professor in Human Sciences at Beijing Language and Culture University, whose domain of research is the Sino-Tibetan family, and the situation of cross-border languages, particularly the comparison between Chinese and Tibetan.
After a traditional exchange of gifts – books in our case – the interview focused on the place of languages in China and how bilingual education is perceived by Chinese school authorities. I also asked which models were most often found in schools and communities, and if Chinese parents have a desire to expose their children to languages. Finally, I learned a lot about minority languages and language retention strategies in China. What emerges is that school-based bilingual immersion programs are becoming a trend, that educational authorities are open to international partnerships and teacher exchanges, and that Chinese families understand the economic benefits of this pedagogical model. Informing local education authorities through awareness campaigns, with credible partners, while engaging in competition between school districts, while showing examples of good practice from leading Chinese schools, seems to be the strategic angle to move forward for international actors interested in the boom of multilingual education in China.