B&R by the Numbers: Belt and Road projects need language talents

Editor’s Note: This is the eighteenth installment of Belt and Road Portal's special series on the Belt and Road Big Data Report 2017.

Although foreign language service providers have significantly increased, the supply of talents fluent in less commonly used languages still falls short of the demand of the Belt and Road Initiative, according to the Belt and Road Big Data Report 2017 published by the State Information Center.

The foreign language service industry in China produced an output of 282.2 billion yuan (US$43 billion) in 2015, up 79 percent from that of 2011. But more than 60 percent of the language service agencies are concentrated in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province. The strongest demand comes from the science and technology sector, cultural industry, IT, commerce and trade, medical care and chemical industry, finance and government affairs.

About 95 percent of these agencies provide English-Chinese and Chinese-English translation services, the second and third most popular foreign languages are Japanese and French. Only 2.6 percent of the agencies provide less commonly used language translation services, which directly hinders the Chinese enterprises’ cooperation in the relevant regions.

Experts point out China not only lacks less commonly used language talents, who are usually concentrated in certain special units, but also requires people who in addition also have professional skills.

The report suggests that China should initiate a language capacity construction project under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, make a special plan to cultivate more talents of less commonly used languages, establish think tanks and data bases on languages, and continue to promote the use of Chinese language in countries along the Belt and Road routes.

Higher education institutes should pay special attention to cultivating multi-disciplinary language talents, as well as Chinese language teachers for foreigners, the report says.

Also, China can consider founding a Belt and Road language service network platform and a language big data sharing alliance to explore the added-value service mechanism of language big data.

Last but not least, China should strengthen international language exchanges and cooperation with the countries along the Belt and Road routes, take the lead to host a Belt and Road international language expo with relevant countries, and play up the roles of Confucius Institutes, according to the report.

Editor: liuyue