In­no­va­tive course aims to nur­ture strate­gic tal­ent

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By ZHAO XINYING zhaoxiny­ing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

An ex­per­i­men­tal new course aimed at nur­tur­ing bilin­gual or mul­ti­lin­gual tal­ent, with a fo­cus on the hu­man­i­ties, has been launched at China’s pres­ti­gious Ts­inghua Univer­sity.

The For­eign Lan­guages and Lit­er­a­tures De­part­ment’s world lit­er­a­tures and cul­tures ex­per­i­men­tal course, which is sup­ported by the Ts­inghua In­sti­tute for World Lit­er­a­tures and Cul­tures, started re­cruit­ing stu­dents in Septem­ber last year.

Its aim is to re­form how English ma­jors are tra­di­tion­ally taught at Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties, which typ­i­cally in­volves im­prov­ing stu­dents’ read­ing, writ­ing, speak­ing, lis­ten­ing and trans­lat­ing abil­i­ties, while equip­ping them with a ba­sic knowl­edge of lit­er­a­ture and lin­guis­tics in English­s­peak­ing coun­tries.

In ad­di­tion, stu­dents are usu­ally taught the ba­sics of a sec­ond for­eign lan­guage, such as Ja­panese, French, Span­ish, Ger­man or Rus­sian, equip­ping them to work in a wide range of fields, from ed­u­ca­tion trade.

The ex­per­i­men­tal course at Ts­inghua, how­ever, has a more am­bi­tious goal: pro­duc­ing strate­gic, in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary tal­ents who are highly pro­fi­cient in one or sev­eral to tourism and for­eign lan­guages and have a deep un­der­stand­ing of lit­er­a­ture, his­tory and phi­los­o­phy, both an­cient and modern, in China and abroad, ac­cord­ing to Yan Haip­ing, chair of the de­part­ment.

To achieve this goal, Yan, who also serves as dean of the In­sti­tute for World Lit­er­a­tures and Cul­tures, said the de­part­ment’s best young teach­ers have been as­signed to teach the ba­sic lan­guage cour­ses, while world-class schol­ars from Ts­inghua’s other de­part­ments and abroad have been in­vited to lec­ture on hu­man­i­ties.

Lec­tur­ers also in­clude fel­lows in res­i­dence from the Ts­inghua-Michi­gan So­ci­ety of Fel­lows, which is a se­lec­tive pro­gram for re­cent PhD re­cip­i­ents set up by Ts­inghua and the Univer­sity of Michi­gan in the United States.

The course’s cur­ricu­lu­mis a com­bi­na­tion of that of­fered by hu­man­i­ties de­part­ments at other Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties and cour­ses for English ma­jors at uni­ver­si­ties in Europe and theUS, said Chen Yong­guo, a se­nior scholar who leads the class.

He added that stu­dents in the ex­per­i­men­tal class start early — in the be­gin­ning of their fresh­man year — learn­ing the lit­er­ary clas­sics of China andWestern coun­tries.

“This is a much higher start­ing point than that of any other for­eign lan­guage ma­jor in China,” he said.

Yan said many of the stu­dents who were on the course — 10 in the first co­hort and 15 in the sec­ond— had been rec­om­mended by renowned do­mes­tic for­eign lan­guage high schools, and all had passed the ex­ams and in­ter­views or­ga­nized by Ts­inghua Univer­sity.

“We have been look­ing for in­tel­li­gent young peo­ple with broad vi­sion and out­stand­ing tal­ent for learn­ing lan­guages, and we are de­lighted that the stu­dents we have re­cruited per­fectly meet th­ese re­quire­ments,” Yan said, adding that many had al­ready mas­tered two or more for­eign lan­guages, even be­fore start­ing the course.

She said there would be op­por­tu­ni­ties to study at other prom­i­nent higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions around the world as part of the in­ten­sive four-year course and that stu­dents would be in line for a promis­ing and chal­leng­ing job upon their grad­u­a­tion.

“Al­though there are still two years to go be­fore the first co­hort grad­u­ate, some min­istries, com­mis­sions and strate­gi­cally po­si­tioned com­pa­nies have al­ready started in­quir­ing about them,” Yan said.

Yan Haip­ing grad­u­ated with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree from Shang­hai’s Fu­dan Univer­sity in 1982 and be­came a teacher there later that year. In 1983, she went to Cor­nell Univer­sity in the United States to study Euro­pean and com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture, Euro­pean in­tel­lec­tual his­tory and crit­i­cal the­ory. She ob­tained her doc­tor­ate in 1990.

She has been teach­ing at uni­ver­si­ties in the US since then and earned ten­ure in 2001.

In 2011, Yan re­turned to China as the first batch of dis­tin­guished global ex­perts com­ing back un­der the 1,000 Tal­ents Plan, a re­cruit­ment pro­gram launched by the Chi­nese govern­ment. In 2014, she be­came the chair of Ts­inghua Univer­sity’s De­part­ment of For­eign Lan­guages and Lit­er­a­tures and dean of Ts­inghua In­sti­tute for World Lit­er­a­tures and Cul­tures.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A stu­dent stud­ies at Isti­tuto Secoli’s Guangzhou branch in Guang­dong prov­ince.

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