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Experts: foreign language mastery key to telling China’s stories to the world

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2021-12-14 15:16
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The third annual conference of China University Alliance for the Development of Foreign Language and Literature Discipline is held online on Dec 11 and 12. [Photo/Provided to]

As China is becoming increasingly influential on the world stage, foreign language education and talent cultivation will play a pivotal role in the country's development and social progress, experts said at a conference in Shanghai held by the China University Alliance for the Development of Foreign Language and Literature Discipline over the weekend.

During the conference, foreign language experts pointed out that what China currently provides to the world to learn about the country is insufficient, and that there are contrasting views of China across the world. As such, foreign language educational institutions need to join hands to help the country build its discourse power systematically, said Li Yansong, president of Shanghai International Studies University (SISU).

"The common responsibility of the academia is to be strategic in constructing the country's discourse and narrative system in a global context," said Li at the conference, which attracted more than 200 experts from nearly 100 domestic universities.

"Foreign language universities must give full play to their advantages in language disciplines and contribute to building a community with a shared future for mankind to improve the ability of telling the world stories of China and of the Communist Party of China," he said.

Empowering students with a mastery in foreign languages is key to SISU's talent cultivation approach, he added.

"We hope that the graduates will perform well in foreign languages and their respective professional fields so that more of them will be able to participate in global governance and global affairs," he said.

Jiang Feng, Party secretary of SISU, said that the country's foreign language education is closely related to CPC's global vision.

"As we enter a new era, we shall expand the paradigm of foreign language education in serving the country's strategy," he said.

At the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou, new classes featuring international communication of Chinese cultures will be provided soon, said Shi Youqi, president of the school.

Combining foreign languages, Chinese language and literature, journalism, and Marxism theory, the classes will revolve around people-to-people exchanges between China and the world, and the interpretation of China's development experience to the international community.

"This is our way of strengthening the ability of youngsters to tell China's stories to the world. Combining our students' advantages in foreign languages and cross-cultural communication, we expect that we can turn more beauty from China into the beauty of the world," Shi said.

Yang Dan, president of Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), said that there is still room for BFSU to improve although the school already teaches 101 foreign languages that are used in all the foreign countries and regions that have diplomatic relations with China.

Of these 101 languages taught at BFSU, Yang explained, only 55 are the official languages used in United Nations member states. In contrast, the University of Languages and Civilizations in France teaches 131 of the languages used in United Nations member states. The St Petersburg State University in Russia and Harvard University in the United States teaches 124 and 95 of these languages respectively.

"From the perspective of international participation and competition, our foreign language ability reserve is only at a medium level," Yang said.

The China University Alliance for the Development of Foreign Language and Literature Discipline was founded in March 2018 to harness the knowledge of experts and scholars, pursue innovation in discipline development mechanisms, and promote the development of foreign language education. The alliance, which currently has 215 members, has set up committees for interdisciplinary studies of foreign literature, interdisciplinary studies of linguistics, and the development of curriculum and teaching materials.


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