Studying Chinese: Difficult but Exciting
Maria Suvorova, founder of B2B Perevod translation agency, believes that high quality translation is a seamless communication. In her opinion, deep understanding and keen interest are the keys to successful partnership. Ms. Suvorova is a sinologist and consultant with 15 years of working experience. Many people call her a professional creator of friendship. Today, she is also the Dean of the Chinese College of the International College for Arts and Communication (MKIK). We discussed this promising area with Maria Suvorova. She told us about the features of such education and what to start with.
founder of B2B Perevod translation agency, translator and sinologist, specialist in intercultural communication, Dean of the Chinese College of MKIK
It has become a real trend in the modern world to study the languages of Asia. China is particularly popular among young people and in the business community. That country is one of the most promising business partners. Many entrepreneurs are now negotiating with Chinese companies. A number of governmental, non-profit, and cultural projects and international events in various areas are also carried out in partnership with China.
All that results in Russia’s growing interest in China. Many young people notice that and immerse in studying China’s language and culture.
– What opportunities does a Chinese-speaking specialist have?
– I believe that it is impossible to single out knowledge of a foreign language in a separate category. Not only mastering Chinese but also understanding the mentality, traditions, customs, and business culture of the country give specialists many opportunities and prospects. All that is closely interrelated with the language itself. Scientists say that the language is the best to reflect the world picture of a certain nation.
After studying the structure of kanji, one can understand a lot about the thinking of Chinese people. They are accustomed to perceive information divided into separate units. They have few abstractions and many specifics. That finds its reflection in the structure of all fields of their life.
It seems that language problems can be solved easily thanks to an interpreter. In fact, that is not fully correct. It is important that the person understands what he or she hears and has an idea of how people from another country perceive his or her words, how they interpret what they hear. Thus, language proficiency in addition to knowledge of the culture, economy of the country, and a broad view of the Chinese reality, can make it possible to establish effective bilateral communication.
– Why, in your opinion, is it necessary to open a Chinese College now and why is it unique?
– In many universities, Chinese is taught at a high quality level as a first foreign language for philologists, translators, and linguists and as a second foreign language for many other applied fields of study. However, it is most often difficult for professionals not directly related to the language to find a place on the labor market where the full range of their knowledge will be in demand.
For example, a person can get a legal education and have a proficiency in the Chinese language. However, he or she is unable to apply both because, when mastering the Chinese language, it is important to learn Chinese law as well.
Establishing the Chinese College is a very promising initiative. Students will be able to gain practical skills and master the Chinese language.
– What professions can students of the Chinese College have?
– Firstly, we train project managers knowing the Chinese language. Those are specialists with a very clear employment profile. They are not only able to speak Chinese but also have an understanding of the workflow, know the basic business vocabulary and etiquette, and are good at logistics and event and travel organisation.
In my opinion, today’s labor market lacks independent specialists with good linguistic training and specific applied knowledge. They will be in great demand in large institutions and can develop as separate business units.
Secondly, we train primary school and pre-school teachers able to teach Chinese. This is also a very promising field.
I know from my own experience that successful entrepreneurs partnering with China have already understood the benefits of such cooperation. They look for teachers, educators, and nannies with language skills for their children who may inherit their businesses in the future. Moreover, such specialists are in demand in many private kindergartens and schools.
It is very important that they are not just people who speak Chinese but educated and experienced professionals in age psychology and pedagogical practice.
Departments of the Chinese language at colleges are very important and promising. I would even say that they are necessary to serve the entire scope of Russian-Chinese business.
– What entrance tests await the college entrants?
– They will be interviewed.
Chinese is an ancient, rich, and graphic-focused language. Kanji are not only beautiful visually but also interesting in their essence. One kanji can convey a set of different meanings. The graphic representation of kanji reflects the ancient culture of China.
In addition, the Chinese language is very musical. The meaning of a word can change thanks to intonation it is pronounced with. That is why Chinese is easier for those who have an ear for music.
During the interview, we will check the entrants’ worldview in addition to their level of visual and auditory memory. That will help us understand how easy or difficult it will be for them to master the language and find out whether their career choice is conscious.
– Can you share your advice on what one should start with when mastering Chinese?
– First of all, don’t be afraid of difficulties and don’t give up. Chinese is a very time-consuming language to learn. It is important to be prepared for the fact that it differs significantly from alphabetical languages where you can read a word simply by knowing how certain letters sound.
It’s no coincidence that we test our entrants’ memory. The Chinese language requires mastering a huge amount of completely new information. If a person understands what memory is better developed in him or her, visual or auditory, it is easier for him or her to find the most effective ways to absorb new information.
It is no less important to define the motivation and ultimate goal before learning the language. It is impossible to learn Chinese to the end like any other language in the world. That is why it is important to understand the level which the student should reach from the very beginning.
It takes a lot of time and energy to become a professional. It takes many years of exercising daily. However, one simply wants to communicate with other people in Chinese, there is no need to improve grammatical aspects to one’s best and immerse in some non-essential moments.
I recommend beginners just to start. It is important to understand that mastering Chinese is not easy and not fast but very exciting.
– What other interesting aspects are there in learning Chinese?
– Even words borrowed from other languages like well-remembered English words ‘doctor’ and ‘computer’ are different in Chinese.
When you start learning Chinese, you will have to forget everything you used to know about foreign languages. People most often go to Asian countries to discover something new, to look at the world from a new perspective.
Even if we put aside the language itself and pay attention to non-verbal communication, we are to discover a lot of new interesting things. When a Russian talks about himself or herself, he or she puts a hand on his or her chest. A Chinese person’s ‘self’ is at the tip of his or her nose. Moreover, we are different in finger-counting. If we show the seller ‘ten’ with two open palms, we will hardly be understood. They are used to showing that number by crossing two index fingers.
When one begins to learn any language, it’s important to understand that all people are different. That is why one needs to give up all usual measures and stereotypes and approach new unfamiliar culture with interest, love, and tolerance.
– How many kanji will the students of the Chinese College of MKIK study?
– At the end of their studies, students will have to take the HSK, which is a Chinese language qualification exam. They must take the HSK of at least Level 4. That test corresponds to level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF). Students who pass this exam can speak Chinese on topics from different spheres of life and communicate fluently with native speakers.
The HSK exam (Level 4) is for students knowing at least 1200 frequently used words and relevant grammar.
– Where will the students undergo their practical training?
– First of all, at B2B Perevod translation agency headed by me. Chinese is not our only language but it is the main focus of our work. Students will be able to practice reading, translation, retelling, and annotation-related work using oral materials and texts. They will have an opportunity to take part in projects and events. In addition, clients of our agency will also be able to invite students to practice at their companies.
As for the pedagogy-related activities, students will have no less interesting program. Our agency cooperates with such serious institutions as the Synology Development Association and the Chinese Language Teachers Association. These organisations help development centres, kindergartens, and educational institutions in recruiting staff. Thanks to them, students will be able to try themselves as assistants, organisers of special games, leisure activities, creative activities, and sports competitions in the Chinese language.
We also plan to launch a contest of pedagogical guidebooks aimed at the development of preschool and primary school age children. Students are to work out creative tasks, games, and applications to make language learning more entertaining. Experts will evaluate the works and choose the best of them for publication.
It is important for us that young teachers do not forget that learning a language should bring pleasure. Tlat depends largely on the teacher. The love of the language is often instilled by the person who teaches it.
– As we know, the Chinese College is just the beginning. You are also planning to introduce a Korean-related field of study. Why is this important for you?
– I see great prospects for the development of Korea-Russia cooperation in terms of economy.
Today, we see a huge interest in Korea among our young, particularly schoolchildren. It has become a trend of modern pop culture. Cartoons, doramas, and books of this country are extremely popular among teenagers.
I would like that sincere interest to find its reflection in schoolchildren’s professional activity in the future.
Following this trend of acceptance and love for all Koreans, they can become good Korean studies experts and contribute to the development of international cooperation. I believe that any relationship can be improved and strengthened only by understanding and being interested in how people live ‘on the other communication bridge end’.
– Do you believe that the trend of language learning can contribute to bringing the world closer together?
– There is an active interpenetration of cultures today. There are many restaurants with cuisines from all over the world. People have free access to foreign films, TV-series, and books. We can use some household achievements of other nations. That interpenetration of cultures makes it possible for us to learn about how people in other countries live without leaving our own country. I find that great.
In addition, modern people are well aware of the importance to learn foreign languages. Today, there are many opportunities for that. When people learn a language, they begin to communicate more with foreigners and understand them better. That brings them closer together.
The more we communicate with people from other countries, the more we understand how similar we are and at the same time different from one another. But our combined unity and diversity is our strength. The interpenetration and accessibility of communication undoubtedly result in the trend of uniting the world, to the development of international cooperation in economy, business, and culture. All that contributes favourably to the situation on the whole planet.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov