Alberto and Maribel, sixth-graders at an elementary school in central Mexico, introduce themselves to each other in Mandarin Chinese. Their class also recites numbers, clothing items and weather conditions in a language that, to them, is about as foreign as it gets.
Some, like Damaris De Luna Sanchez, 11, move their hands the way a conductor directs an orchestra, slicing through the air to help them reach the proper intonations. Their enthusiastic teacher, Gerardo Saucedo, is not Chinese nor has he ever traveled to China, but he has long been fascinated by its language.
The sight of youngsters speaking Chinese in the Mexican heartland is unusual, to say the least. Parents told that pupils as young as 9 would be taught Mandarin had been skeptical. But savvy Mexican politicians have other ideas. State authorities launched the pilot language program in Aguascalientes, a working-class city, in hopes of jumping on the Chinese bandwagon.
For many years, Mexico had lagged behind other big Latin economies, like Brazil and Chile, which saw China displace the United States as their principal trading partner. China spent an estimated $100 billion in Latin America in 2008, but Mexico had only a small piece of it. Mexico was the last of the major Latin countries to sign free-trade agreements with Beijing.
The city fathers of Aguascalientes are among those who want to take advantage as a model for all of Mexico. "It's like what happened with English," teacher Saucedo said. "Years ago we didn't study English, but eventually we realized we had to. Now it's Chinese."
But they still met with problems. Saucedo, 28, studied Chinese for four years in a university program. The first year, he recalled, the class started out with about a dozen students, but all except for him dropped out by the end of the term. "It is a very, very difficult language," he said.
Remarkably, this is not the endeavor of an elite academy, nor the work of a Chinese-government cultural institute. Most students come from low-income families and single-mom homes. "It makes these students more competitive," Saucedo said. "Sooner or later, there will be more Chinese companies here, and that means more jobs. If the Chinese see we have Chinese speakers, it will be a big advantage for them, and for us."
2010-06-10 20:41 编辑：kuaileyingyu