A silk road for language

A leading Chinese publisher has big dreams for the future

China’s biggest name in ELT publishing, FLTRP, has announced plans to become a global player in education within the next 10 years. The Gazette spoke to its president Cai Jianfeng about its big ambitions.

Despite its dominance in China, few people outside of the country will have heard of FLTRP (Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press). Tell us a little about the company and your role in it.
It was established in 1979 by the Beijing Foreign Studies University. Dedicated to foreign language publishing for 38 years, we have a built up a backlist of 10,000-plus titles and publish 1,000-plus new titles annually in nearly 50 languages. We have enjoyed the number one position in China’s foreign language book market for more than two decades. As a leading player in the domestic market, we have established partnerships with over 600 publishing or educational companies all over the world.

I joined the press in 1989 and served as its editor-in-chief for nine years before taking the role of president in 2011.

I have played a key role in growing our titles and extending our business from publishing to the larger field of education.

Now you are setting up a new joint venture to publish internationally. Who are you working with and what is your main aim in doing this?

In recent years we have become more aware of global opportunities. This has led to our decision to set up a company based in the UK and targeting the global market. We are working with China’s major online education company Hujiang and China’s biggest English language teaching provider New Oriental to set up this new joint venture.

The first aim of this project is to assist students around the world to enter – and then succeed in – university-level study in English medium and then in the world of work. We aim to provide high-quality teaching and assessment materials.

Secondly, we want to spread information about China and Chinese culture to an English-speaking audience through the publication of high-quality and engaging materials.

Thirdly, we aim to assist non-native students all around the world to learn Chinese by providing high-quality Chinese language teaching materials.

We hear you have a department that works directly with schools and universities overseas.

Yes, FLTRP has a subsidiary company, the BFSU International Education Group (BFSU International), which was founded in 2014 to meet the growing demand for international education in China. Its business covers K–12 language education, international course centres, study-abroad programmes, international exams and assessment, etc.

“Our main aim is to create a silk road for language, as well as for cultural exchanges ”

And are you running any educational programmes in China?
Yes. Under BFSU International, we provide after-school language tutoring for Chinese students aged four to eighteen. We run 27 campuses in four major cities – Beijing, Nanjing, Xi’an and Hefei. BFSU also runs study-abroad programmes, helping Chinese students who plan to pursue overseas education by improving their competence in language, academic skills, cross-cultural communication and subject basics.

BFSU also organises overseas school/university tours, as well as Chinese culture tours during summer and winter vacations. In general, we aim to build a growing path of international education for four to eighteen year-olds.

Perhaps we could say that FLTRP is creating a silk road for language. If so, what can China get in terms of language teaching expertise from the outside world? What kinds of people are you looking to work with?

Yes, creating a silk road for language – as well as for cultural exchanges – is our main aim, consistent with our mission: ‘recording human civilization and bridging different cultures’.

Up until now, we’ve worked with over 300 authors and illustrators for our publishing programmes. With our new joint venture company to be set up in the UK, we definitely need to work with more in the future. Besides publishing, we also welcome more trainers to join our educational programmes.

If there was one thing you could achieve with FLTRP in the next ten years, what would it be and why?

We aim to become a global company. In today’s world as a global village, learning a foreign language helps one to understand others and become connected with other people and cultures.

We are poised to play a more active role in the future by enhancing our capabilities to serve global customers.