Stu­dents’ pick of lan­guages is start­ing to shift

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - XI'S VISIT - By LIU KUN in Wuhan and ZHAO XINYING in Bei­jing zhaoxiny­ing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

More high schools in China are of­fer­ing Rus­sian courses as stu­dent in­ter­est in the lan­guage grows in sec­ondary schools, par­tic­u­larly since the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive was pro­posed, ed­u­ca­tors said.

The Rus­sian pro­gram at Jian­wen Foreign Lan­guage School, a high school in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong prov­ince, at­tracted only 24 stu­dents when it was estab­lished in 2011. But in­ter­est has grown quickly, es­pe­cially after the ini­tia­tive was pro­posed in 2013, ac­cord­ing to Li Guang­ming, the vice-prin­ci­pal.

“The pro­gram at our school has al­most 250 stu­dents,” he said. “About 80 grad­u­ates of the pro­gram were ac­cepted by higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions in Rus­sia. ... Many oth­ers went to do­mes­tic uni­ver­si­ties.”

Huang Mei, di­rec­tor of the School of Rus­sian Lan­guage and Cul­ture at Bei­jing Foreign Stud­ies Univer­sity, said Rus­sian used to play a role at high schools in China like English does now.

“Although not per­va­sive in to­day’s China, there have been signs in re­cent years that Chi­nese peo­ple’s in­ter­est in learn­ing Rus­sian is re­viv­ing,” she said. “One of the key rea­sons is that im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive has fa­cil­i­tated close ex­changes and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and Rus­sia, as well as with other coun­tries like Kaza­khstan and Ukraine, where the lan­guage is also used.”

In Hubei prov­ince, No 14 Mid­dle School of Wuhan, which en­com­passes high school grades, of­fered Rus­sian courses be­tween 1985 and 2002, but can­celed them as in­ter­est waned. But in Septem- ber, the school, work­ing with the Univer­sity of Moscow, started an ex­per­i­men­tal Rus­sian lan­guage class and planned to re­cruit 40 stu­dents.

“But to the sur­prise of the school au­thor­i­ties, more than 400 stu­dents and par­ents at­tended the in­tro­duc­tory meet­ing and showed a will­ing­ness to join the class,” said Li Yanxia, di­rec­tor of the school’s ad­mis­sions of­fice. The more par­ents knew about the Belt and Road, the greater the sup­port for the class.

Stu­dents ad­mit­ted to the pro­gram take Rus­sian for two years at the school. They then at­tend a one-year prepara­tory course at the Univer­sity of Moscow be­fore tak­ing the univer­sity’s en­trance exam, she said.

Li Guang­ming of the Jian­wen Foreign Lan­guage School said that the grad­u­ates who are now study­ing at in­sti­tu­tions in Rus­sia are at such schools as Saint Petersburg State Univer­sity, Repin Academy of Fine Arts, and Em­peror Alexan­der/St. Petersburg State Trans­port Univer­sity.

“With the re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and Rus­sia get­ting closer and the de­mand for peo­ple who can speak Rus­sian grow­ing, I be­lieve more young peo­ple in China will de­velop an in­ter­est in the lan­guage and de­cide to study it,” Li Guang­ming said. “The Rus­sian lan­guage may again be­come one of the ma­jor foreign lan­guages learned by Chi­nese stu­dents in high school.”

WAN SHANCHAO / FOR CHINA DAILY

Stu­dents of Rus­sian at Kaiqu Mid­dle School in Huaibei, An­hui prov­ince, con­verse with two Rus­sian teach­ers from Irkutsk State Univer­sity in April.

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