Shipping sector employees learn Mandarin in SAJ/CMI partnership
Every Monday and Wednesday after the regular work day has ended, the conference room at the Newport West offices of the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ) is transformed into a classroom for employees within the shipping industry eager to learn Mandarin, the official language of the Chinese.
For three hours, the room echoes with the melodic, uniquely pitched 'tones' that are the core of the complex language as the students converse with their Chinese tutors, listen to Chinese music, or practise the Chinese meditation exercise called Qigong (Chi Kung).
The classes, which began on June 2, 2015, are the result of a partnership between the SAJ and the Caribbean Maritime Institute's (CMI) School of Advanced Skills. The association, as part of its continued culture of innovation, recognised the need to bridge the language barrier in order to capitalise on deepening China-Jamaica relations, which have resulted in an expansion of prospects for trade, commerce, and tourism. As such, it took advantage of an offer by the CMI to customise for the shipping sector its Mandarin language programme, which has been a core part of the institute's curriculum for all its students since September 2014.
As the premier maritime and logistics training institution in the region and a training partner on the Government's Goat Islands project, CMI agreed to facilitate the necessary capacity building and provision of international certification and training, including mastering the Mandarin language. This framework agreement, which is supported by the Ministries of Education and Transport, Works and Housing was formalised with a symbolic ceremony in July last year, which was attended by the Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr Omar Davies; chief education officer Dr Grace McLean; as well as representatives from the Office of the Prime Minister, China Harbour Ltd, and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce.
As part of its commitment to ensuring training opportunities for employees within the sector it serves and preparing them for an integrated market space with Chinese nationals when the logistics hub materialises, the SAJ has facilitated the CMI's 13-week course, which was offered at significantly subsidised fees. The SAJ also provided scholarships for 10 of its own staff to participate.
The Mandarin course is taught by Dr Songbo Yan and Xiaohui Feng, Chinese nationals who currently tutor at the Caribbean Maritime Institute.
"Liang ren dou hao laoshi," ["They are both very good teachers,"] said Shannon Brown of ADVANTUM Limited when asked about his tutors.
At the end of the course, the shipping sector students are expected to have mastered conversing, reading, and writing basic greetings and exchanges, including how to do bank transactions, Internet and telephone use, booking reservations for travel, ordering meals, telling the date and time, and purchasing goods and services. They will sit an oral exam and receive certification upon successful completion.