Ahead of Beijing Olympics, race to learn Chinese

By Xinhua

Changchun (China) : With Beijing hosting the 2008 Olympics, more and more overseas students are learning the Chinese language.

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There are 102 foreign college students attending a Chinese language contest here and top prize winners among them will win full scholarships to study in China and all of them have the opportunity to be a volunteer for the Olympics, according to organizers.

The 102 students, from 52 countries worldwide, began Saturday the 6th Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students, held in this capital of Jilin province in northeast of China.

“I am looking forward to becoming a volunteer for Beijing Olympics, so as to help our Polish athletes,” said Jolanta Gomolka, a student from Poland at the three-day contest.

Gomolka, a student from Pozana University of Poland, spoke fluent Chinese while talking to organizers of the event.

She said her father, who also likes Chinese culture, gave her a poetical Chinese name, Yuan Yueying. The name originates from a famous Chinese poem, which says the moon has its wax and wane.

“I will improve my Chinese as soon as possible. Next year in Beijing Olympics, I will witness Australian swimmers winning gold medals,” said 21-year-old Thomas Shugg, a junior from Monash University, Australia.

Thomas has been learning Chinese for one and a half year.

“It’s far from enough if you merely know the Chinese characters. In order to understand China, you have to understand its culture,” said Anna Khmelenko from the US.

To better know about the preparation work for the Olympics, Khmelenko even worked in a residential community committee of Beijing for two days.

“When I saw those elderly workers in the committee volunteered to promote civilized deeds and behaviour among residents for the Olympics, I strongly sensed the Olympic atmosphere in China,” said the American girl.

“Young students from various countries are interested in sports and culture, the 2008 Beijing Olympics will definitely prompt them to learn Chinese hard,” said Xu Lin, director of the Office of Chinese Language Council International, a language promotion agency.

According to statistics from the National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, there are about 30 million people overseas learning the language.

“Beijing Olympics is serving as a booster for foreign students to learn Chinese language and culture,” said Xu.

“Just imagine, in 2008, when people of different races and colours gather together in Beijing and they all speak Chinese, how interesting it will be! At that time, even a simple ‘Nihao’ (Hello) will make China affable,” said contestant Abir Saguer from Tunisia.