“Chinese language is not transcendent as many people think”

At the beginning of 2022, relations between Russia and Western countries deteriorated sharply. Against the background of the Western condemnation of Russian special operations in Ukraine and the new sanctions, many international companies left Russia, and difficulties arose for Russians in admission to European and American universities. Some Russians planning a career in the West began to consider changing their strategy. China is considered one of the alternatives to Western countries – a neutral country to Russia, with many foreign experts, a strong export-oriented economy and developing science.

Taras Ivchenko, director of the Confucius Institute of the Russian State University for the Humanities, states that learning Chinese now is not as difficult as it was in the Soviet era or in the 1990s.

“There are many opportunities to learn Chinese in our time. The amount of material is so great that it somehow complicates the training, because it creates a selection problem. The same goes for training courses: courses for every taste: morning, evening, paid, free, at different levels, any. “The current situation cannot be compared to the situation decades ago,” he said.

The Confucius Institute made significant contributions to the popularization of the Chinese language in Russia. This is a network of international cultural and educational centers established by the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, the State Office for the Promotion of the Chinese Language Abroad (“Hanban”). In Russia, separate institutes are opening in existing educational institutions, and in 2007 the country’s first Confucius Institute was established at the Russian State University for the Humanities. The duties of these and similar centers are to organize courses on Chinese language and culture, to organize scientific conferences about this country, to organize internships in China and to conduct HSK Chinese language proficiency tests.

Ivchenko believes that learning Chinese on your own without the help of teachers is far from suitable for everyone, and its effectiveness largely depends on the student. A person without language training will need systematic instruction. In general, the effectiveness of self-study depends not on talent, but on understanding how to approach a foreign language. For example, such a skill can be acquired either during a previous study of a foreign language or if a person is engaged in linguistics and knows how to approach language structurally.

On average, a sinologist says that if a person once studied English at school, and then worked all his life, for example, in the field of sales, then it is better for him to find a teacher for Chinese.

Systematic study is important when learning Chinese, and unfair expectations can be harmful.

“I just want to learn the spoken language, I don’t need anything else. Well, preferably three months and maybe five. “You can’t approach language that way, these are myths and when they collide with reality, you can get discouraged and give up,” he said.

said the director.

The Confucius Institute warns students that they should prepare for not only systematic, but also long studies. It takes several years to learn Chinese from scratch, at least two years, only then some kind of foundation will emerge. At the same time, it is not recommended to exclude individual elements, hieroglyphs, phonetics or spoken speech from the program.

Native English classes cannot be considered a definite plus for beginners. In the middle and late stages of learning it is difficult to do without communicating with the Chinese, but for beginners it is important to go the way their teacher once presented to the student and know all the difficulties associated with it.

Alena Borunova, head of Elite&Alliance’s international projects department, did not initially plan to start working in China.

After graduating from the judgeship, the girl went to St. Petersburg Chinese School “Confucius” as assistant principal. It wasn’t a conscious choice, she was just looking for a job. Grammar was not required there, but Alena ended up in a Chinese setting. After a year of study, the girl had a desire to communicate with the Chinese who came to school – from the educational field, business, consulate and other places.

“I started learning phonetics, it was very difficult to combine it with work, but in 2014 I got the opportunity to study in China for free for a short-term program through Hanban, an affiliate of the Chinese Ministry of Education. He received grants ranging from two weeks to full undergraduate study. I took advantage of a one-term trip and came to Beijing to study with my zero knowledge of Chinese,” said Alena.

This grant covers tuition fee, living expenses and even salaries. The only negative aspect of the program was that I had to live with other foreign students and therefore English began to be practiced more than Chinese.

After that, Alena returned to Russia and continued to study in the same place, but the courses provided a strong linguistic basis, and the girl began to grasp the meaning of the speeches of her Chinese colleagues. Two years later, Alena returned to China, where she first studied the language on a grant for about a year, and then went to work.

“At the very beginning, when trying to learn phonetics, it is better to learn Chinese in a group, because you need to hear not only yourself and your teacher, but also your classmates, where they are wrong and where they are speaking. correctly. After 3-4 months, after phonetics, an individual approach seems most suitable to me, because otherwise the difference in pacing will interfere, ”advised Alena.

The most difficult thing for the girl was tones – in Chinese, the same syllable pronounced in one of the four keys completely changes the meaning of the word, and only in practice you can learn how to use them correctly.

Natalia Levitina, an opera singer and vocal teacher, took a completely different path, learning Chinese from afar in Russia.

For a long time, Natalya taught students from China to sing, but there was no need to know the language for this, since an interpreter was always nearby. Out of her love for languages, the singer tried to learn Chinese with a teacher and on her own. I bought a tutorial, but it did not lead to any significant success.

“Then the COVID-19 pandemic started and we were all confined to our homes. I lost the opportunity to teach in person and were unable to use the services of an online translator. So, I found HSCAKE online courses and went through the basic program for about six months during the lockdown,” he said.

After the end of the curfew, Natalia enrolled for the Chinese proficiency exam at the Confucius Institute and passed it to the third level and four months later to the fourth. The fourth level in the HSK scale corresponds to knowledge of 1200 words and hieroglyphs. This command of the language allows you to freely communicate with a native speaker. In total, the girl completed three courses of seven weeks each.

Natalya states that she initially came to the HSCAKE lessons with a non-zero knowledge level, as she was able to get a general idea of ​​the language from the tutorial and short sessions with a teacher.

“The information that I somehow began to speak Chinese reached the Faculty of Arts of Moscow State University. I was invited there as a teacher and I started giving singing lessons to Chinese students as well as giving them Russian opera lessons. So, in addition to my main profession, I studied something else. It turned out to be not so difficult, the Chinese language is not transcendent, as many people think, ”said Natalia.

The girl notes that in order to master the language, it is important to competently manage your time and force yourself to study. To choose the right online courses, Natalia recommends subscribing to them on social networks and following them for a while. It is necessary to look at what information is published on the network, how they deal with students, how teachers ideally work, communicate with them and only then pay. Instantly teaching promises that cannot be fulfilled should alert language and other irresponsible expressions. Natalia’s teaching experience in many ways helped her evaluate the quality of the courses, but in general she believes that she is just lucky and choosing good teachers can only be done by trial and error.

Taras Ivchenko also believes that various “secret methods” for accelerated learning should not be believed. Like other popular languages, there is a risk of encountering unscrupulous teachers when choosing Chinese courses.

“It is probably charlatans who offer you to master the language with no difficulty, no homework, and just a natural flow of conversation.”

said the sinologist.

Among the places with good education, in addition to the Confucian Institutes, Ivchenko, Moscow State University, St. Petersburg State University and MGIMO both educational programs for students and courses for everyone. St. Petersburg, where you only have to pay for the knowledge test. He talked about free online courses at St. Petersburg State University.

The “Chinese letter” is traditionally considered a metaphor for something difficult in Russia, but due to recent Western sanctions, working with China may be the only way out for some people. Gazeta.ru decided to find out how difficult it is to learn Chinese and spoke to an expert to teach it, as well as two Russians who had learned Chinese from scratch as adults, and the language became an essential part of their careers.

Source: Gazeta


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