Language learning speaks volumes for new understanding

Updated: 2013-08-02 09:00

By Cui Jia in Urumqi (China Daily)

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The alphabet song

Zhang Jinhua, loves to sing the "alphabet song". The 7-year-old girl has already memorized all 32 letters, even though she only joined the class 15 days ago.

Language learning speaks volumes for new understanding

Seven-year-old Zhang Jinhua (left) is one of the youngest students attending the Uygur language class. Photos by Yao Tong / for China Daily

"Her father can't speak Uygur and sometimes he finds it difficult to do business in Kashgar. He insisted I take her to Uygur classes during the school holidays. She seems to be a fast learner," said Zhang's mother, 31-year-old Chen Yaning, who decided to join the class to keep her daughter company.

"My father let me talk to his Uygur friends on the phone, and said I will be his translator soon," Zhang said.

"Don't tell anyone that I have a secret teacher," she whispered after singing the alphabetic song. Her secret teacher turned out to be Mehmut, who owns a naan bread shop which Zhang often visits to buy the flat, round bread for her family.

"One day I told the owner that I'd started taking classes. I spoke to him in Uygur and said I wanted three naans. He made a deal with me; he teaches me one sentence for every naan I buy," said Zhang. After counting the number of naan she has bought since then, she proudly announced that she has learned nine sentences so far. "The first thing he taught me was, 'This naan is delicious!'" she smiled and translated the phrase into Uygur: "Nan bek yeyixlik!"