Portuguese Town Requires Students to Study Mandarin

February 5, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. compulsory /kəmˈpʌl sə ri/ (adj.) – required or necessary
Example: Primary education is compulsory for every citizen in Spain.

2. capital /ˈkæp ɪ tl/ (n.) – a city or place known for a specific quality
Example: This town is the education capital of the country.

3. tie /taɪ/ (n.) – connection or relationship between people or group of people
Example: The United States has strong ties with other countries.

4. pick up /pɪkʌp/ (idiom) – to learn or improve on something
Example: The kids picked up the lessons quickly.

5. fluency /ˈfluənsi/ (n.) – ability to speak a language easily and properly
Example: He showed his fluency in German language during his conversation with the German visitor.


Read the text below.
A town in Northern Portugal has made learning Mandarin, China’s official language, compulsory for pupils.

In an effort to boost future business relations with China, the town of Sao Joao da Madeira [sou zhu-WOU dah ma-DE-ruh] started to require schools to teach lessons of Mandarin Chinese or Putonghua [POO-TUHNG-HWAH]. Students from the age of eight until eighteen will study the language as part of the curriculum. The government will monitor the implementation to see if the curriculum can be applied in the whole country.

Portugal has long been known as a shoemaking industry, with Sao Joao da Madeira as the country’s shoe capital. City councilor Dilma Nantes believes that teaching Mandarin to Portuguese students will help the country make stronger ties with China, the world’s largest market.

Portuguese footwear exports to China have grown from 10,000 pairs in 2011 to 170,000 pairs in 2013, amounting to $6.61 million worth of sales. According to Mario Tavares, a shoe workshop manager, studying Mandarin will provide Portuguese businessmen an advantage when doing business in China. He added that the country may soon be the main market for Portuguese shoemaking firms.

Mandarin teacher Wang Xinliang [sin-LI-yang] said his students are easily picking up the language and are enjoying the lessons. The lessons have also encouraged some pupils to visit China in the future.

In a recent news report, however, China’s director of the State Language Commission Li Weihong said that Chinese people’s fluency in Mandarin is decreasing. He explained that around 400 million of China’s 1.3 billion citizens cannot communicate well with Putonghua.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you approve of this compulsory lesson? Why or why not?
·         What other languages would you suggest to be taught to students? Why?

Discussion B

·         Do you agree that a country must learn the languages or culture of a country that they want to do business with? Why or why not?
·         How important is the government’s support in creating ties with foreign countries? Explain your answer.

February 5, 2015