Ishwar Hebbar has been studying Japanese for three months now. His motivation: To understand anime (Japanese animation) without having to read the subtitles all the time.
In another part of the city,Bhushan Shah has been working hard on his Mandarin conversational skills. His goal: To be able to strike good business deals. Meanwhile,63-year-old Ratnakar Kelkar has also been learning Mandarin because he thinks it helps sharpen memory. For their own reasons,a growing number of people in the city are giving languages like German and French a pass and opting to learn Japanese,Mandarin and even Korean.
Hebbar says that in his class of 20-plus students at an institute in the city,there is a mix of age groups and also motivations. Some are working people whose jobs require them to learn the language; there are some who are learning it purely for the love of the language. And there are those who are motivated by reasons like anime, says Hebbar,who will take his level 1 exams after another month of learning.
Teaching Mandarin in the city for close to two years,Aditi Wadnerkar says that interest in the language has grown perceptibly. I started out with only two batches of 10-15 people each. Now,I have three batches with about 30 people each. There are college students,corporate employees,furniture dealers,spare parts dealers,elderly people and even mothers of young kids. She attributes the spurt in numbers to Mandarins cool quotient and to the growth of the Chinese economy.
So much of raw material or electronic parts come from China,so corporate employees and engineers are required to converse in Mandarin. Some of my students are small traders who visit the country once every month and need the conversational skills. In colleges these days,its cool to be learning Mandarin, she says.
Madhura Phadke and Sushma Bhave,who have both been teaching Japanese for more than a decade,cite similar reasons for the rise in number of their students. Phadke agrees that German and French,which were traditionally the foreign languages that people wanted to learn,are losing their luster. While Asian economies are rising,Europe is no longer looking as attractive as before. Many Japanese companies have units in the city or have collaborations with Indian companies,so it has become imperative for employees to learn the language. Also,this has created a lot of opportunities in the fields of translation and interpretation, says Phadke.
Bhave,who teaches the language at Pune University,says that after the Japan tsunami,there was a fall in the number of people learning Japanese. Since last year though,the numbers have been picking up again, she says.
Korean is not as popular as Mandarin and Japanese,yet there is a group of people that is pursuing it to improve career prospects. My student wants a career in interpretation,so she is enthusiastic and quick to learn, says Mikyoung Ku.