University in Guangxi touts ASEAN links

Updated: 2014-07-28 20:37

By Zhao Xinying

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Guangxi University for Nationalities is tapping its geographical advantages to develop language majors related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, according to Zhong Haiqing, the university's Party secretary.

The school, located in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, is close to ASEAN nations. It started setting up language majors in the 1960s. The first three were Vietnamese, Lao and Thai.

Four other Southeast Asian languages followed in the 1990s: Cambodian, Myanmar, Indonesian and Malaysian.

"Now we have language majors for almost all Southeast Asian nations," Zhong said.

Guangxi University is the third institution to offer so many Southeast Asian language majors, the other two being Beijing Foreign Studies University and the PLA University of Foreign Languages in Luoyang, Henan province.

Compared with those two universities, Zhong believes his school's ASEAN language majors have at least two advantages.

"Guangxi is contiguous to and has frequent communication with ASEAN countries. Therefore, many Guangxi people learn ASEAN languages fast and well," he said. Even those who have no knowledge of ASEAN languages can acquire listening and speaking skills after living, working or studying in those countries for half a year, Zhong added.

He said his school's other advantage is low cost, which is also tied to its location.

"The cost of studying at our university is about 50 percent of that at many universities in North China. It is good news for many ASEAN students who come from medium- or low-income families. Large numbers of ASEAN students come to study."

Zhong said that his university recruits more than 1,000 international students each year - about 1,500 this year. Most of the international students are from the ASEAN region.

The university has also gathered a number of ASEAN teachers, making contributions to its teaching and research, as well as nurturing talent.

Zhong said the university has established cooperative arrangements with 105 universities and academic institutes from eight Southeast Asian nations. These universities and institutes often recommend the school, sending teachers or researchers there.

In recent years, at least 90 language teachers from ASEAN nations have worked at the university and most have come to improve the ASEAN language skills of Chinese students. Twelve of those teachers are serving on the faculty.

"They are not only teaching, but also compiling teaching materials and textbooks for students, making great contributions to the development of the specialties at our university," Zhong said. "With the efforts made by ASEAN scholars and teachers, our university is having more discussions and cooperation with ASEAN," he said.

(China Daily USA 07/28/2014 page6)