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The Macao Special Administrative Region has attached "unprecedented" importance to cultivating people able to speak both Mandarin and Portuguese, language and culture scholars said.
They added that the efforts by Macao are one answer to the country"s call for the SAR to become a commercial and trade cooperation service platform between China and Portuguese-speaking countries.
Only 0.6 percent of Macao residents speak Portuguese, according to official statistics. The total population of Macao is more than 650,000.
Yao Jingming, head of the Department of Portuguese at the University of Macau, said more seats and scholarships have been provided for local students to study Portuguese.
Macao"s education and youth affairs bureau has launched a plan that subsidizes local secondary school graduates who pursue a degree at Catholic University of Portugal in Lisbon. The effort aims to foster young people"s bilingual language competency in different professional fields, such as business management, economics, psychology and biological engineering. All are taught in Portuguese at the university.
Gloria Yang Junyi, a 21-year-old UM senior studying Portuguese, attended a government-funded exchange program at the University of Lisbon from February to June. She recalled being immersed in a Portuguese-language environment and making remarkable progress in her language competency, as well as deepening her understanding of Portuguese culture.
"I believe the study tour will allow me to stand out amid fierce competition in the job market," Yang said.
Meanwhile, according to Yao, the UM educator, Chinese-Portuguese bilingual education is being promoted in elementary and secondary schools. Beginning last year, Chinese-Portuguese bilingual classes were launched in two local public schools in Macao, aiming to "give priority to the training of bilingual talent for government positions".
The Macao government introduced teaching materials combining Chinese and Portuguese.
In addition, Macao has established Asia"s largest Portuguese teaching institute - the Chinese-Portuguese Bilingual Teaching and Training Center - in a bid to establish what it said is a "reference framework for Portuguese language education targeting Chinese students". The center first opened its doors in May last year.
"With these efforts, the city has experienced an upsurge of interest in learning Portuguese," Yao said.
Looking forward, experts are calling for more exchange programs and internship opportunities for local students in Portuguese-speaking countries.
With more exchanges and communication, people from Portuguese-speaking countries have begun to understand China and its development strategies, leading to more in-depth and high-level collaboration between both sides, said Chao Peng, master"s degree program director of the Institute for Research on Portuguese-Speaking Countries at City University of Macau.