Sao Joao da Madeira, small town in northern Portugal specializing in the production of luxury footwear, is now making Mandarin a compulsory subject for eight- and nine-year-old students who, according to local workers, will have a clear advantage when doing future business in China.
While China remains the largest producer of footwear in the world, Portuguese shoemakers are steadily finding their footing (whoop!) within the market, according to the Associated Press:
Affluent Chinese with a taste for luxury are increasingly fond of handmade Portuguese footwear, which are the world’s second most expensive after Italian shoes.
As Portugal battles to encourage growth after a prolonged contraction that saw unemployment soar past 17 percent, the industry is key in helping the country export its way out of the slump.
Exports of footwear by Portuguese brands to China soared from 10,000 pairs in 2011 to 170,000 pairs in 2013, reaching sales of 5.4 million euros ($6.7 million).
If sales of footwear made in Portugal for foreign brands were included as well, 2013 revenues surpass 20 million euros — although still a fraction of the total shoe exports reaching 1.7 billion euros that year.
“China has the potential to become our main market one day,” said Mario Tavares, the head of a workshop in Sao Joao da Madeira. He believes the students learning Mandarin will one day be perfect candidates for “sales jobs or managerial posts at factories”.
Meanwhile, as the British Council recently placed Mandarin in the top five most important languages for Britain’s future security and influence, David Cameron has likewise prodded youngsters to start learning the language.
“As Mandela once said: ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands that goes to his head, if you talk to him in his own language that goes to his heart,'” Cameron said.
Is money a language?
[Image via Wikimedia]