Culture\Cultural Exchange

Cultural connection

By Fang Aiqing | China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-06 07:17
Cultural connection

Contestants of the 10th Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign Secondary School Students take photos onstage after the event lowered the curtain on Oct 28 in Kunming, Yunnan province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The 21-year-old music major, who is now studying at Yale University, says: "The Chinese Bridge helped to build my confidence. Now, when I'm performing or giving presentations, I worry less about what the audience might think of me."

He started learning Chinese at 12. As a piano player, he was attracted by the four Chinese tones. "It was like music," he says.

He was the champion for the sixth Chinese Bridge competition for foreign high schoolers in Kunming, Yunnan province, in 2013. The experience stimulated his interest in different Chinese ethnic groups' cultures and music. This became the topic of several research reports he did for school.

"Chinese learning broadens horizons, adds to the students' knowledge and strengthens their understanding about another culture so that their inner world becomes richer and skills more diverse," says Zhao Guocheng, chief executive of the Confucius Institute Headquarters. "And the Chinese Bridge is not only an inner bridge for individuals but also an external bridge that brings people together."

Making a difference

Khalzan Tserendolgor, a 21-year-old Mongolian who is studying at Renmin University of China, says: "If we compare language to a river, then one side is friendship and the other side is cooperation. Those of us who are learning Chinese are the vehicles on the bridge and boats on the river that shuttle back and forth."

Few chose to learn Chinese in the past. It was only after Srour had won the championship that some of his family members, friends and teachers began to truly believe that he was learning Chinese.

However, learning Chinese has become increasingly popular worldwide.

American Drew Alexander Korschun recalls how his Chinese teacher tried to create an environment that allowed them to explore and cooperate.

The 23-year-old recorded a short video about the Dragon Boat Festival with two partners. They managed to obtain and decorate a small raft. They filmed themselves yelling aboard the craft, as if they were participating in a dragon boat race.

His teacher also took them to the Chinese supermarket and encouraged them to order in Chinese.

"That was when I realized that there is such a different little world in my city," he says.

"And since my journeys to China, I came to know how important a role China is playing in the world."

Korschun is pursuing his master's degree in East Asian languages and civilizations at the University of Colorado Boulder. After learning Chinese, he also became interested in Japanese and Korean.

"I understand the difficulty of bringing positive changes to the society as an individual, but together we can make a difference," Korschun says.

"The Chinese Bridge inspired us to create a positive bridge by getting to know each other. Thus, there will be friends coming to help when we face setbacks."

Zhao says: "Chinese people can learn lessons from these young (foreign) people, who are learning about their language and culture. Understanding one another's languages is important to building a human community with a shared future."

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