EU 'students' get a lesson in understanding Chinese culture

Updated: 2013-07-26 01:43

By Zhao Xinying (China Daily)

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Thanks to the 2013 Chinese Training Program for EU Employees, some 30 officials got the opportunity to know more about China.

Launched by the Hanban (Confucius Institute Headquarters) and organized by Beijing Foreign Studies University, the program, which lasts from July 20-28, is the first such cultural exchange platform in China designed for European Union employees, said Jing Wei, deputy director-general of Hanban.

EU 'students' get a lesson in understanding Chinese culture

Evelyne De Bruyne (left), a European Union official, visits the Forbidden City with a friend as part of a training program for EU employees to learn Mandarin and the Chinese culture.[Geng Feifei/china daily]

The 30 EU employees, selected from more than 50 who applied for the program, are from 16 directorate generals of the EU including environment, energy, trade, enterprises and industry, and development and cooperation.

A series of tailored lectures are given to them by teachers from the Beijing Foreign Studies University, including lectures on China's economy, education, culture, and science and technology.

In a two-hour lecture, He Rong, an associate professor of the International Business School of the university, introduced the development and growth of China's economy, trade and foreign direct investment.

She also mentioned China's policy on economy and trade, as well as China's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15).

She said the EU employees are different from other international students she taught in the past and she chose these topics especially for them.

"Compared with ordinary international students, the EU employees know more about China's history and economy, and they are more interested in China's policies and plans," said He.

Christer Hammarlund said the lecture given by Chinese people about their own country is interesting and informative.

"I had read about the history of China before coming here and the lecture on China's economy totally met my expectations," he said.

Gerald Cultot said he knew about the history and the development of China's economy before the lecture. But he still wants to know how China achieved the ability to keep sustainable growth, and how China will be addressing the challenges it faces.

"I got some of the answers to my questions," he said after the lecture. "The lecture is really good, but we have no more than two hours."

Hammarlund, the team leader, said they were lucky to join the program.

"We have been very grateful to be here. We are the lucky 30."

During a Chinese language class, the sentence "wo shi ou meng de zhi yuan", which means "I'm an employee of the EU", was practiced again and again.

Teacher Wang Zulei said the EU employees in her class may have learned some "general" Chinese before they came. So she said she taught them something "special" in her class.

As a Chinese teacher of the university, Wang selected topics and content related to the employees' activities in China and their experience in the EU.

To Wang's surprise, most of the EU employees in her class could not only master the sentence quickly but also talk about their life and work with each other in simple Chinese.

She said it's pleasant to be with these EU employees. "They are thoughtful people with different perspectives, and it's more like a cultural exchange between me and them, rather than a class.

"I don't think I am a teacher of them. Instead, I'm just a Chinese person who is better at Chinese than them," she said.

The EU employees were divided into four classes according to their different levels. As the teacher of Class Four, a senior level class in which the EU employees have studied Chinese for at least one year, Wang focuses on conversations related to their daily activities in China and their work experience in the EU.

Cultot, an employee with the communications networks, content and technology department of the EU, said the class was "great".

Cultot has been studying Chinese for two years.

"I'm studying Chinese now and I wish I could continue for another course, because it is good for my career," he said.

Apart from taking Chinese language courses and lectures, the EU employees will also be visiting a series of scenic spots both in Beijing, as well as Xi'an.

As part of the program, they also visited China Daily on Tuesday to learn from the newspaper's editors about how Chinese media operate in the country.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership, and the program.

This is a follow-up to the China-EU People to People High-level Dialogue, a milestone in the China-EU relationship, said Zhang Xiuqin, an official at the Ministry of Education.

"Through this program, we hope EU officials will learn more about China, about Chinese history, about the society, about the people, and at the same time, we can learn from the EU," she said.

Han Zhen, president of Beijing Foreign Studies University, said education has played a very important part in the cooperation between China and the EU.

"I think this training program is one of the vivid examples of our cooperation in education," he said.

Adinda Sinnaeve, an employee of the Directorate General for Competition of the EU, said many problems, such as pollution, climate change and the financial crisis, have become common concerns of different countries across the world.

"We can solve the problems only by cooperating with each other," she said. "I hope to exchange my perspectives on these issues with Chinese people in the program."

Jiang Mengyun contributed to this story.