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New Post 23.03.2010 13:42
  ChineseTime
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Chinese learning craze sweeps Russia 

Chinese learning craze sweeps Russia

From Xinhuanet


From the far eastern port of Vladivostok to the northern city of St. Petersburg, from the bustling capital of Moscow to Volga River that stretches endlessly, Confucius Institutes and schools running Chinese courses are spread all over Russia.
learn chinese in Russia
Attracted by the rich Chinese culture and the increasing usefulness of the Chinese language, a growing number of Russians are studying the oriental language.

CHINESE-LEARNING FERVOR ON THE RISE

A famous historical anecdote goes that the Chinese Wanli emperor in the Ming Dynasty who reigned between 1572 and 1620 once wrote a goodwill letter to the Russian tsar. However, as there was no Chinese translator in Russia, the letter was laid aside for as long as 50 years.

The anecdote reveals a truth that though being close neighbors, the Russians and Chinese can not carry out smooth communication ifthey do not solve their language problems.

The Chinese language education in Russia dates back to more than 150 years ago. St. Petersburg State University began to offer Chinese courses in the mid-19th century. But for a long time, its Chinese language education mainly focused on ancient Chinese philosophy and literature, and the student population was small.

As China's national strength grows and the Sino-Russian ties strengthen in recent years, Russia witnesses an urgent need for Chinese-speaking talents. To meet this need, many Russian universities have launched Chinese teaching programs.

At present, nearly 100 state-funded Russian universities are running Chinese courses, with over 40 listing Chinese as their first foreign language, said Pei Yufang, education counselor of the Chinese embassy in Russia.

The number of undergraduate and postgraduate students studying Chinese is estimated to exceed 10,000.

The craze for the Chinese language has brought the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius into Russia.

In 2005, St. Petersburg State University opened the first Confucius Institute in Russia. Since then, such non-profit institutions that aim to promote Chinese language and culture and support Chinese teaching internationally mushroomed in Russia and now the country boasts 12 Confucius Institutes, two Confucius Classrooms and a Radio Confucius Classroom.

However, the thriving Confucius Institutes still can not satisfy the growing need for Chinese learning. And five more Confucius Institutes will be opened in Russia's higher learning institutions during the upcoming "Year of the Chinese language" in Russia.

The Chinese-learning craze has also spread to elementary and high schools. Partial statistics show that Chinese courses are available in more than a dozen elementary and high schools in Moscow, involving some 2,000 students.

DEEP FASCINATION

China's Lunar New Year, the Spring Festival, used to have little connection with Russia, now attracts the attention of more and more Russian people.

In February and March, several Russian universities and middle schools with Chinese teaching programs organized events to celebrate the festival.

Students from Moscow Municipal Experimental School put on several performances themed on China to exhibit their understanding of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Established in 1992, the school is famed for its compulsory lessons on martial arts and the Chinese language, two major carriers of the Chinese culture.

Ten-year-old Vania, a fifth-grader in the experimental school, has been taking Chinese language and culture lessons for over four years.

Fascinated with Taiji and martial arts, Vania performed Chinese Kungfu to Xinhua reporters when interviewed. He has also learned quite a few traditional Chinese proverbs by heart, such as "constant dripping will wear away a stone."

Masha, a nine-year-old girl, has also been learning Chinese over the past four years. She attends the prestigious No. 11 School of Moscow, which offers Chinese courses.

The Chinese language is very hard, and the characters are difficult to write, Masha said. But the language is interesting and she is determined to carry on her studies, she added.

Both Vania and Masha would like to major in Chinese when they enter college. Their parents also hope their kids can learn to understand, respect and love the Chinese culture so that when they grow up they can work to help deepen the mutual understanding between Russia and China.

"I was born in the Far East region and grew up at a time when the song 'China and Russia are friends forever' was widely popular," president of Far Eastern National University Vladimir Kurilov once told Xinhua.

Kurilov said besides Chinese majors, many of those majoring in international relations, law and economics also show great zest for studying the Chinese language and culture.

"On one occasion, it turned out that a math student won the Chinese language contest in our university," he said.

Ren Guangxuan, the Chinese director of the Confucius Institute at Moscow State University, told Xinhua that his institute has staged colorful activities including lectures, exhibitions, contests and training programs, attracting the participation of thousands of Russians and having helped them to know more about China, its language, culture and current development.

FERVENT ANTICIPATION

In fact, the first event celebrating the "Year of Chinese Language" in Russia in 2010 was a joint performance by Chinese and Russian artists of a classic Russian opera, the best among the ten operas composed by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky.

On Jan. 25, artists from China's Central Conservatory of Music and Russia's Moscow Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky Conservatory successfully wooed Russian audience by presenting the three-act opera Eugene Onegin with consummate cooperation in directing, acting and choreography.

In March, a spectrum of activities themed on the "Year of Chinese Language" have triggered a new wave of "China fervor" in Russia.

According to a list published on the website of the Chinese embassy in Russia, a total of 87 activities are expected to be staged this year, including singing contests and language corners.

Online Confucius Institutes designed to offer long-distance Chinese language education to Russian youngsters and a platform for friendly communication between the youths of the two countries will also be set up.

China's National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, or Hanban, will send experts to Russia to help train local teachers.

Grigory Zhigaekov, a senior student in Moscow State Institute of International Relations, was one of the runner-up winners in the eighth "Chinese Bridge" in 2009, a Chinese proficiency competition for foreign college students.

He told Xinhua that "for Russians who wish to know the Chinese culture, all activities -- exhibitions, movies, or concerts – are precious opportunities."

On the eve of the upcoming "Year of the Chinese Language," Li Hui, Chinese ambassador to Russia, said that from now on, China will offer various scholarships to Russian students to fund their studies in China .

This year, Li said, more than 2,000 Russian scholars and students are expected to visit China for short-term research and learning programs. The Chinese government will also provide regular Chinese teaching classes for Russian teachers, he said.


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