Feature: Language teachers help build cultural bridge between China, Italy
by Xinhua writers Guo Wendi, Zhang Qin, Liu Enli, and Hao Yilin
CHONGQING/ROME, July 26 (Xinhua) -- "I remember when I was still a student, few universities in China had Italian majors, but now many universities offer Italian programs," Chen Ying, an Italian language professor in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, told Xinhua.
In Milan, Giovanni Goffredo, a Chinese language teacher has lately shared his observations on the trend of Italians learning Chinese in recent years.
"In the past, there were few individuals who were proficient in speaking Chinese (in Italy). Now it is no longer as challenging as before to find someone who is capable of speaking excellent Chinese," he said.
They are of the same opinion that language can be a bridge for communication and exchanges between China and Italy in various fields, and over the past years the two languages and cultures have shown increasing appeal for their respective peoples.
ITALIAN LANGUAGE IN GROWING DEMAND
Chen is a professor at the College of Western Languages and Cultures, Sichuan International Studies University (SISU). Her story with the Italian language dates back to more than two decades ago.
After obtaining her master's degree in 2005, Chen pursued a doctoral degree at the University of Macerata in Italy. Having finished her studies, she decided to return to China for career development.
"Plenty of opportunities were available then. I could stay in Italy, and I could also work in a foreign business back here in China. But eventually, I accepted the invitation from SISU and became an Italian teacher," she said.
Communication and cooperation between China and Italy, she said, have shown great potential. As a fan of Italian culture, Chen believes that, as a university professor, she can better facilitate the cultural exchanges between the two peoples.
The professor has focused on integrating theories and practices when teaching at SISU. She also mentors graduate students in translation practice, which has become a feature in pedagogy. "Apart from theoretical teaching, I have proposed to set up a translation workshop to encourage students to translate Italian books."
Besides her role as a professor, Chen is an expert in Italian literary translation as well. In 2013, she started to translate internationally popular Italian literary works: the Neapolitan novels.
Chen said that at present, the Italian language and culture are gaining more popularity in China. Italian elements have been deeply integrated into many aspects of Chinese society. "Italian cuisines and fashion brands are vastly popular in China, and of course, Italian football games are loved by avid Chinese fans."
As China-Italy exchanges have expanded to more fields, she said, the demand for Italian language talents in China, who have a profound understanding of each other's national conditions and culture, is now increasing significantly, prompting more universities to offer Italian language programs.
Chen said that she will keep honing her teaching skills and remains committed to working as a bridge for cultural communication between the two countries.
INDISPENSABLE CHINESE LANGUAGE
Goffredo, a directive instructor of the Chinese language at the educational services of the Municipality of Milan, shares the same keen interest in Chinese culture and is consequently enthusiastic about imparting relevant knowledge to others.
Goffredo started to learn Chinese in Italy in 2009, and has made three trips to China on scholarships. At that time, few people could speak fluent Chinese in Italy.
Nowadays, not only are there more and more Italian university graduates majoring in Chinese, but the competition for relevant job positions has also become fierce in local job markets.
With his passion for the Chinese language and culture and strenuous efforts, Goffredo stood out. In his view, the Chinese language is very difficult for Italians, as it belongs to a distant and distinctive culture, which is "extremely interesting and fascinating."
Because of the unique charm of Chinese, Goffredo, apart from doing normal coursework, also improved his Chinese by reading and watching movies. Since embarking on a teaching career, his enthusiasm for learning the language has also been brought to the classroom.
"(Teaching Chinese) gives me a sense of personal and professional satisfaction, especially when explaining and talking about the Chinese language, which is such a complex and distant subject," he said.
Goffredo also said that his Chinese language courses aim to provide useful knowledge and skills in work and daily life. In Goffredo's classroom, he puts more emphasis on developing students' ability to communicate in Chinese.
"We need to do communication and conversation together ... I hope when students are at a restaurant or in a store with Chinese friends, they are able to speak with a certain fluency," he said.
Emphasizing the positive role that cultural elements play in language teaching, Goffredo mentioned that there is a strong interest in Chinese culture in Italy. Besides arranging Chinese language training courses, the Municipality of Milan also offers Chinese culture and calligraphy classes.
Goffredo, also the executive secretary of the Confucius Institute at Ca' Foscari University of Venice, noticed that there are numerous Italian students who show enthusiasm for learning Chinese and have a strong interest in Chinese culture not only in Milan but also in other major Italian cities.
In Italy, there is a high demand for Chinese language talents in various sectors such as tourism and luxury goods, he said.
The teacher noted that language is key to bridging the cultural gap between the two countries, and teaching Chinese helps promote Italy-China exchanges and cooperation.
Many of his students came to learn Chinese because their companies may have Chinese clients, he added, and such companies want to ensure that some of their employees can speak Chinese as it is extremely important to work with China.
"(The Chinese language) is an indispensable key. If one wishes to engage with China in a fruitful and intelligent manner, to truly create relationships of trust and friendship, it is essential to know the language," he said.