Building connection one heart at a time
Building connection one heart at a time

Love as the Foundation of the Strongest Intercultural Bridges

Gong Ming on her two homelands: China and Russia
06.17.2020
Love as the Foundation of the Strongest Intercultural Bridges

Are Chinese and Russian cultures as different as society generally thinks? Why is it easier for people from different countries to find a common ground than it seems at first sight? We talked about that and many other things with Gong Ming, a charming and positive Chinese woman who has lived in Russia for almost 20 years and currently teaches Chinese here. Ms. Ming sees her mission in establishing a cultural bridge between the two countries and considers both of them her homelands.

_Гун-Мин_T.jpg Gong Ming
founder and director of WE Mandarin School

According to Gong Ming, a foreign language is a tool revealing new opportunities for a person. It makes it possible for us to expand the boundaries of the world and become closer to other cultures. As a teacher, Gong Ming has always strived to share that useful tool with her students. She founded her own Chinese language school last year. 

Gong Ming’s project is more of a social focus than a commercial one. All those having no financial or physical capacity to attend that school can learn from free videos on the YouTube channel that almost duplicate the core curriculum.

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According to the expert, the main thing for her is to introduce people in Russia to the culture of China, to show how interesting and promising this country is. 

When Gong Ming came to Russia, she didn’t know Russian at all. Mastering it not only enabled her to study in another country but also expanded her career horizons. “Learning a foreign language has changed my life. I know many other people who did the same thing. I want society to understand that English is not the only language giving great prospects. Today, according to many people, the world is shifting towards the East. China is gaining popularity as a country of great opportunities. I would really like to open the door to these opportunities for many people”, she comments.

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– What other opportunities does learning Chinese give in addition to professional growth prospects? 

– The West and the East have different worldviews and philosophies. The language is the tool through which one can understand people’s mentality and way of thinking. When combining knowledge of European and Eastern cultures, one can see the world from a larger and more vivid perspective. It will be easier for people to understand one another, find compromises, and make life on our planet better together. 

That’s why I established a school of the Chinese language in Russia. I believe, I will manage to create a similar project in China in the future. Russia is a country having a lot of interesting things unexplored by foreigners. I want to tell about that to make communication two-way.

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– The cultures of Russia and China are very different. What do you find the most interesting in them as a person who has lived for many years in both countries? 

– I have lived in China for almost 18 years and the same amount of time in Russia. I can say for sure that they are much more alike than many people think! 

I was born into a Chinese family where the traditions of our culture were treated very carefully. That had a big impact on me. When I went to Russia, my grandmother did not understand at all how a young girl could go abroad, live and study far from her home, in a foreign country. However, she supported me anyway, because she knew that I wanted to do it very much. 

The longer I live in Russia, the more I understand that this is not a ‘foreign’ country for the Chinese. Despite the fact that there are a lot of external European features in people, art, environment, the mentality of Russians is still very similar to the Eastern one. 

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I have noticed many similar things in our languages. It should be noted that when we translate from Chinese to Russian, we can almost always find a word with exactly the same meaning. At the same time, when translating to English we have to use synonyms. 

The plurality of meanings of the term ‘to create’ is one of the most striking examples of how close our languages are. In the Russian language, this term can be used when talking about art or in figurative meaning, for example, when asking a person about what he did. It’s the same in Chinese. It is also so surprising that in two different countries there are figurative notions with the same meaning. It happens very rarely. 

We can compare our written languages with people: they seem different visually but they are close in terms of logic and meaning. 

The same similarities can be seen in cultures: in how we receive guests, how we establish relationships with others, and how we treat our close people. I have a close friend in Russia, who became like a sister to me. I even consider her relatives my second family. When I talk to them, I really don’t feel the difference in mentality. That is one of the reasons why I have lived in Russia so long: I feel comfortable here. I feel the same warmth in this country as in China. 

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Many Russians believe that the Chinese language is very difficult. That opinion comes from the stereotype of the absolute difference between our cultures. However, the learning process becomes much easier if we focus on similarities rather than differences. 

Oftentimes, we think that people from other countries are completely different from us. We initially perceive them as strangers who are distant from us. We do not try to look at their lives from the inside. I experienced that myself. Now I perceive Russia and China in the same way. Even when I watch the Olympics, I always watch the performance of Chinese and Russian athletes with sincere excitement. I love these two countries and therefore I can feel their cultures very well. 

– You could choose any country to go to 18 years ago. Why did you decide to go to Russia? 

– I think that was fate. I was very young at that time and did not take the choice of the country for further education too seriously and meaningfully. My dad wanted to send me to Canada or the United States. However, my trip was postponed for a long time because of some circumstances. I was very upset, because it was like a door to the new world opening and then closing at once in front of me. Today, I believe, that was for the best. 

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One day a friend working in Russia came to visit us. She talked a lot about the country and provoked my interest to it. I started asking her whether I could get an education there without knowing the language. It was interesting for me to learn about opportunities for young people in Russia. I was so inspired by her story that I started to look for information about Russia myself, study the maps of Moscow, and read about what universities international students enter. I decided to talk to my dad and said I already knew English well so I didn’t see the point in going to England or America. Studying in Russia and mastering its language seemed much more interesting to me. My parents supported my decision and a month later I was in another country. Since then, I could have never imagined my life without Russia. 

– Now you speak Russian very well! Tell us about the beginning of your life in the new country? 

– I entered the Moscow Pedagogical State University and by the third year I already spoke Russian quite well. I was able to translate freely from Chinese, so I took a study leave to work as an interpreter. 

I had a proper salary and even thought I wouldn’t go back to university. However, at one moment, I began to feel an inner emptiness. Did I want only the money? I realized that money didn’t make me happy. 

I accidentally came to one interesting lecture on psychology and pedagogy. We were told how teachers can influence their students, how they can change the lives of not only individuals but also whole generations. That’s when I finally realized I wanted to be a teacher, so I went back to studying. 

That motivated and inspired me. I became an excellent student, attended all classes, and carried out all the tasks very diligently. When I was a fourth-year student, the dean came up to me and proposed me to teach Chinese classes at the university. It was very exciting for me because all my groupmates were practicing at schools, not universities. 

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It is difficult to express in words how pleasant those classes were. I talked a lot about China and its culture. I saw the shining eyes of students. Their genuine interest charged me with energy. It became clear to me how much I could do: I could pass on my love for the country to other people. 

I kept teaching for several more years. There was a student from Kamchatka in one of my groups. Her family was very poor and the girl couldn’t even call her mother because there were problems with electricity at home. The student was making great progress in her studies, so I offered to help her find a job. Today, she is a successful specialist who develops international relations. The Chinese language was the tool that completely changed her life. 

That is just one of many examples of the opportunities that language learning gives. Today, I see my responsibility in not only sharing my knowledge but also guiding students to the right path, showing them how to apply the acquired knowledge effectively. 

That’s why I decided to establish my own school. If I stayed to teach at the university, I would help only a few people. Today, I hope that we will be able to significantly expand our sphere of influence thanks to our project. We have already applied for the opportunity to carry out HSK exam for our students. We are negotiating with Russian and Chinese companies ready to take our best students for internships. 

I want to help people love China and show them that this country is ready to respond with mutual love. That makes international communication stronger. 

– In your opinion, what is the role of women in establishing such intercultural bridges? 

– Women are able to feel and understand other people well, so they can contribute greatly to the development of any communication. Men have better logical thinking and are more oriented towards political diplomacy. 

We are all building an intercultural bridge together with each of us fulfilling a certain role. As a rule, Men lay the foundation and make clear outlines while women reinforce and decorate the structure bringing harmony into it. It results into a solid stone bridge dotted with fragrant flowers. It is a pleasure to walk it. 

Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency

Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov


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