Spanish language furor sweeps China
In the world's most populous country, there are some 500,000 Spanish speakers and networks such as DouYin, the Chinese version of TikTok, have become a thermometer of this "fever."
Lulu Yang, 28, is a star of Chinese TikTok, DouYin, where she has more than 10,000 followers. But she has not achieved her following by doing bizarre challenges or dancing to Beyoncé songs, but as a Spanish teacher. A language that, together with Latin culture, is causing a furor in the Asian giant, where it already has some 500,000 speakers, and the number is growing.
"Today, in China, English is very common, and more and more people know it," Yang told NBC's Amanda Florian. "Without Spanish, I think I would be a very ordinary person and have a very ordinary job, but thanks to Spanish I have done a lot of traveling and visited a lot of cities."
The teacher posts videos on social media dancing to Zumba and listens to artists like Shakira or Luis Fonsi, while assuring that those who speak Spanish in her country are usually very multi-faceted and open-minded people.
"Everything I know, every job opportunity or love story I've had, is thanks to my Spanish," she says.
Yilin Ye, a 25-year-old student, is also passionate about Spanish culture to the point, she says, that the language transforms her personality and makes her a much more outgoing person.
In the case of Scott Xia, 29, DouYin has become a tool to get a job. How? By teaching Spanish online — he has more than 3 million followers despite only first learning the language 7 years ago, mainly through YouTube videos, Netflix series and movies.
"Take a look at a map. There are tons of Spanish-speaking countries. If you speak Chinese, English and also Spanish, you're basically covering all the bases: there's no place you can't go," says Xia, who, when he worked as a sailor, made very good friends in other countries, especially Mexico.
Spanish tutorials for Chinese students are growing like mushrooms on the web. In many of them, the teachers rather amusingly recommend gargling to train the language and to be able to practice the "erre."
There are also tons of millennials on DouYin, who boast about their language skills and lip-sync to videos, dance to trendy Latin rhythms, and dress up in big earrings and necklaces, imitating the artists of the moment. They all claim that embracing this loud and sparkling culture has changed their lives.
It's even changed their curricula vitae. This was confirmed by the Spanish coordinator for the Chinese government Lu Jingsheng, who said in an interview that "the Spanish language is making waves" in the country and at the Shanghai International Studies University where he teaches, where only English, Japanese and Russian were offered until Spanish was added to the curriculum in 2017.
Now, many Chinese students see endless possibilities in the language and learn it with an eye to passing the Gaokao, the university entrance exam, which lasts nine hours and has a part in which they are tested on a foreign language — English and Spanish tend to be the most in demand.
Spanish is the third-most spoken language in the world after Chinese and Hindi. How long will it take to be the first?