Beijing steps up English-language drive

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Authorities in Beijing plan to make most residents - from hairdressers to policemen - learn English under a drive to convert the Chinese capital into a "world city," state media said Monday.

The government programme - first launched in 2002 in preparation for the Beijing Olympics and recently renewed - calls for all kindergartens in the city to introduce English courses within five years, the Global Times said.

A minimum of 60 percent of shop assistants, receptionists and hairdressers under 40 will also be required to pass English tests by 2015, as will 80 percent of police officers, the report said.

Every civil servant under the age of 40 with a bachelor's degree will also be required to master a minimum of 1,000 English sentences.

The programme aims to bring "greater convenience to foreigners working or studying in the capital and enhance international relations and cooperation," the report said.

It also comes amid a campaign to transform Beijing from a "city well-known for its culture" into a modern "world city," it added.

Ahead of the 2008 Olympics, about 5.5 million residents of the Chinese capital were taught a number of sentences for basic conversations in English, according to state media reports.