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Abulikem Pida was having a debate in Mandarin with several other villagers on which is better－working at home or in bigger cities. It was to improve his language ability.
Abulikem, 40, who lives in Innakash, a poor village in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, realized the importance of language in his business and wanted to improve his Mandarin skills.
Abulikem worked in a restaurant in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province, for a year and a half and could practice on the job.
"After traveling and working outside Xinjiang and making friends with people in different places, I"m more aware of the importance of language," he said.
"Only if you can communicate with each other can you truly understand and accept each other."
Two years after returning home, he seldom spoke with other people in Mandarin and gradually forgot what he had learned. He opened a furniture store and found it extremely troublesome when placing an order and in bargaining since most of his suppliers speak Mandarin.
The first Party secretary of the village, Liu Yuanxin, said: "There had been rising demand for Mandarin lessons from local villagers who wanted to be able to communicate with other Chinese. They saw it as a desirable skill that could help them find a better-paying job."
Abulikem signed up for the evening school half a year ago. Taking lessons, watching movies dubbed in Mandarin and even having debates. Now he can easily tell suppliers what furniture sells best and can purchase products at a lower price.
Liu said teaching Mandarin to local residents helps them enhance communication between ethnic groups, and also helps them get a better education and find better employment opportunities.
Anihnim Tira, 36, began to study at the evening school a year ago. She owned a clothing workshop with more than 60 employers. She wanted to expand her business, but language was a big barrier.
"By learning Mandarin, we have access to many new technologies and can introduce products to more customers," Anihnim said.
The village has attracted several businesses and investments such as a glass-assembly factory and a mushroom cultivation project, which all required Mandarin in the process of mastering the skills.
"Many people went to the factories after studying at our night school. The students have benefited from learning Mandarin. We are making our best effort to create opportunities and an environment for them to learn the language," Liu said.