The number of people enthusiastically learning all they can about China is increasing dramatically in Europe, especially in light of the country´s increasing influence on the global economy.
Europe has often repeated its commitment to open trade relations with China, most notably in the increasing efforts across the EU to improve communications with the country. One of the most striking changes of recent years is the number of officials and employees that have started learning Chinese.
The increasing demand for Chinese classes is because China is the EU´s second-largest trading partner, after the United States, and the EU is China´s biggest trading partner.
For many years, French, Russian and Spanish were the most popular courses among European Union and Commission staff, but as Johnson noted, Chinese and Arabic are now the languages of choice.
The Chinese class has about 60 students at different levels of proficiency, and the reasons for joining vary. Apart from work-related reasons, many officials are learning Chinese for their own enjoyment. Tami Julien, director-general of development and cooperation at the European Commission, said his work mainly involves African issues, so for him learning Chinese is more about personal enjoyment.
One European Commission translator, who wanted to be known simply as Victor, has worked for international organizations for 25 years. He speaks fluent Spanish, Italian, English and French and is now learning Chinese: "I think Chinese is a very important language. I´m interested in learning about the country´s culture and language. Also it´s my obligation to stay up to date."
Many EU officials have hired Chinese-speaking assistants to better connect with the country. However, EU employees are not the only ones learning Chinese, and the implementation of language classes is one of the hottest topics among school boards and parents in many European schools.