Feature: Japan high school students share charm of Chinese language

Updated: March 13, 2024 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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FUJISAWA, Japan, March 12 (Xinhua) -- As early cherry blossoms bloom in the brisk March air, a group of Japanese high school students in the coastal prefecture of Kanagawa has taken the stage to share their journey of learning Chinese and their perception of its charm.

Themed "Charm of Chinese Language," the third Shonan Chinese Speech Contest was held in the city of Fujisawa on Sunday. The 13 contestants were all high school students who have only been learning the Chinese language for a year. Their enthusiasm for the language was felt among the audience regardless of the not-so-fluent speeches and inaccurate pronunciation.

The reasons for these high school students to learn Chinese vary greatly."I would like to communicate with locals in Chinese when traveling," said one student. "I love Chinese Kung Fu and want to learn Chinese to understand movie lines," said another.

Taiyou Nakamura from Fujisawa Shoyo High School told Xinhua he learns Chinese to fulfill his dreams. The teenage boy, known as a bullet train enthusiast, often takes photos of Japan's Shinkansen bullet trains and cannot stop talking about it with his classmates.

"China's high-speed rail is developing rapidly, with speeds reaching 350 kilometers per hour, and the ticket prices are also very cheap. My dream is to go to China one day to take photos and ride on high-speed trains," said Nakamura.

"In the future, I want to work in a field related to high-speed trains and go studying railway technology in China. To achieve the goal, I must continue to work hard to learn Chinese," he told Xinhua.

Yuna Matsunaga, who won the championship of the speech contest, said that the initials, finals, and four tones in Chinese pronunciation are difficult. These difficulties did not discourage her, but instead motivated her to learn. "The four tones in Chinese pronunciation are gentle and melodious, sounding like beautiful music," she said.

Matsunaga said her interest in learning the language was sparked by her mother, who had studied in China and often talked to her about the country. Therefore, when asked to pick an elective foreign language course in the second year of high school, she chose Chinese without hesitation.

"In addition to practicing tones with teachers in class, I also listen to Chinese songs to practice pronunciation in my spare time," said the girl.

According to the organizer of the event, the champions and runners-up of the speech contest will have the opportunity to exchange with local students in Kunming, the capital city of China's southern Yunnan province. Matsunaga, who has never been to China, looks forward to this opportunity and hopes to experience Chinese culture firsthand and learn more about China.

In 2020, Fujisawa held the first Shonan Chinese Speech Contest, which has now become a key project for youth exchanges with Kunming.

The two cities are connected because of Nie Er, the composer of the national anthem of the People's Republic of China, "March of the Volunteers." On July 17, 1935, Nie Er, a 23-year-old Chinese musician, drowned while swimming near Enoshima Island in Fujisawa.

In 1954, the Nie Er Memorial Monument, initiated by local residents, was completed in the Shonan Coast Park. After several renovations and expansions, it has become today's Nie Er Memorial Square. In 1981, Fujisawa became a sister city of Kunming, Nie Er's hometown.

In the opening of Sunday's event, Nie Er's story was introduced in the hope of fruitful results in the future by sowing the seeds of Sino-Japanese friendship.

"The Fujisawa City government strongly supports the Chinese speech contest and is willing to provide more opportunities and stages for Japanese youths interested in China to learn the language. We also hope to create opportunities for youth exchanges between Japan and China through this event, promoting mutual understanding between the two sides," Fujisawa City Mayor Tsuneo Suzuki told Xinhua in an interview.

Du Kewei, minister counselor at the Chinese embassy in Japan, said at the contest that it is necessary to deepen understanding of each other to enhance the peaceful and friendly relations between the two nations.

"Friendship, which derives from close contact between the peoples, holds the key to sound state-to-state relations," he noted.

Editor: Yang Linlin