Language learning speaks volumes for new understanding

Updated: 2013-08-02 09:00

By Cui Jia in Urumqi (China Daily)

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More Han Chinese in Xinjiang are aiming to become fluent in Uygur, reports Cui Jia in Urumqi.

It was after 10 pm in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and Zhu Xiaomei had just finished her Uygur language evening class, which she has been attending after work for almost a year.

Language learning speaks volumes for new understanding

A student reads a Uygur book at Xinzhou training school in Urumqi. Photos by Yao Tong / for China Daily

The strict pronunciation exercises had made her throat sore and the heat in the small classroom had left her tired and drained.

Zhu and 49 other students, most of them Han Chinese, had been studying in the room for two hours.

"I hope that one day I will be able to speak Uygur as fluently as my Uygur colleagues speak Mandarin.

"I've always believed that Han Chinese in Xinjiang need to learn some Uygur. After all, the Uygurs are encouraged to learn Mandarin, and bilingual education should work both ways," said the 34-year-old legal consultant.

On her way home from work one day in August last year, Zhu noticed a billboard advertising "Crazy Uygur" courses at Xinzhou Training School, so-called because students are encouraged to shout out the phrases they've learned.

She signed up for the 1,500 yuan ($245) one-year course and has been attending the evening class three times a week ever since.

"It's something I've always wanted to do. I've learned much more than just the language during the past year and now I understand more about the Uygur culture and traditions. The more you understand those things, the fewer misunderstandings there will be," she said.

Xinzhou training school launched its Uygur training program in 2010 after Wang Jiansheng, the principal of the private institution, realized there was a demand for language classes. "Many people asked me where they could learn the Uygur language, so I decided to give it a go," Wang said.

More than 900 students attended classes during the first year, and the figure has now risen to more than 2,000. "The students come from all sorts of background: businesspeople, doctors, government workers and teachers. The youngest student is just 6-years-old," Wang added.

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