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Intellectuals stand up against foreign language tests
Updated: 2004-04-12 11:48

Chinese intellectuals have been grumbling about foreign language tests, which they are required to pass to obtain higher professional titles.

"I'm 54 now and don't want to torture myself with these novel English words, so I will not participate in any foreign languages test for professional titles in the future," said Wang Tongxi, an engineer with the Biochemistry and Cellular Biology Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Wang aims to win the title of senior engineer and registered in this year's foreign languages test on April 11. He has been struggling to learn by heart over 6,000 English words in the past months with less than five hours of sleep each day, but still failed to answer most of the questions on the exam paper.

After graduating from Beijing University in 1978, Wang has been studying neural polypeptide and published over 10 authoritative academic papers.

Most exam participants don't use foreign languages in their daily work and they forget the language even after having passed the tests with high grades, said Wang Jianmin, director of public management department with Beijing Normal University.

In China, professional titles, such as senior engineer, professor and lecturer, are generally hinged with not only honors, but also some financial benefits.

The examinations cannot justify experts' professional levels and those with less language talent are not necessarily less gifted in other studies, said Wang who has been studying foreign languages teaching and application for years.

China began a foreign language study campaign in the 1980s, which has heated up recently.

The campaign is overheated and needs to be cooled, said Zhou Guoqiang, deputy dean of the foreign languages college at Shanghai Jiaotong University.

Experts advocate elimination of foreign language tests for some professionals.

Foreign languages tests should be applied only to those working in departments or companies related with overseas affairs and experts in other fields should be exempt from the tests, such as professors of ancient Chinese and herbalist doctors, said Shen Ronghua, a researcher with the Shanghai Public Administration and Human Resources Research Institute.

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