Zou Yifan and her Spanish students.
A former student of ECNU, Zou Yifan, whose voluntary service to teach Mandarin Chinese in Spain, bringing readers into her world of devotion and inspiration, was headlined on the world page segment of the People's Daily - China’s official newspaper outlet.
A column of the newspaper issue titled: Passion for the Homeland, Big Country to Play a Role in Promoting the Development of the World, featured the story on how she set out on a memorable experience teaching Mandarin Chinese to international students while abroad in Spain.
Ms. Zhou received a master's degree in 2016 from the Global Center for Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages at ECNU. She was also a member of the Volunteer Chinese Teachers Program, a volunteer body organized by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), whereby she was assigned to teach Mandarin at an official language school in Gijon, Spain between September 2014 and June 2015.
She chose to stay on course, however, and so after graduation from ECNU in July 2016, she returned to Spain in order to finish what she had started.
A stranger to Spanish language and culture when she first landed on the European continent, she said over the years she virtually fell in love with her career and made friends with so many of the locals.
“I have become more aware of the heavy, yet lofty responsibilities I bear in my job and I’m proud of it,” she told People’s Daily.
All challenges must be overcome before things can get easier. This could not be more true for Ms. Zhou as she started her full time teaching career on foreign terrain.
It was evident from the beginning that she would struggle to grasp Spanish language and culture, which, consequently, led to communication barriers with her students. At any rate she made a quick adjustment to her priority goals, thus she endeavored to study Spanish language and learn more about the native culture. Moreover, she improved her teaching methods by customizing plans for different students and preparing more efficient, meticulous lesson plans.
The People's Daily makes a special report on Zou and her colleagues.
Her efforts had finally paid off when she was deemed accepted by a growing number of students, of whom many are older than her. Meanwhile the classroom atmosphere progressively became more active.
Ms. Zhou decided to extend her time in Spain with three main ambitions in mind: her love for students, passion for spreading Chinese language and culture globally and a strong sense of purpose to carry it out, a mantra that was verified in 2017 when she was awarded the “Excellent Volunteers” for her diligent work abroad.
“For Westerners, China is a far, mysterious place and the Chinese language is more like a mumbo-jumbo,” Zhou asserted to reporters. “My mission is to open a door to China, in hopes that they can experience the real traditional Chinese culture and understand what’s happening in modern China.”
“The job gives me a feeling of satisfaction and belonging,” she said. “Especially when the students expressed their gratitude to me for showing them a new world unknown to them before.”
Ms. Zhou comprises one of the more than 100 per year Chinese nationals teaching Mandarin Chinese as a second language in Spain. Most of those teachers going abroad hold college degrees in Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages, at the same time consist a deep love for Chinese language and passion for spreading Chinese culture around the globe.
To name a few - Wang Qinlong, who was moved deeply by a Christmas card written in Chinese by a student; Xiao Sanyue, who was encouraged by a 76-year-old attending his class; and Yang Yifan, a teacher of the Confucius Institute who cultivates Spanish natives aspiring to become Mandarin Chinese language teachers.
The level of Chinese language learners in Spain has increased sharply over recent years, with the amount of people taking the Chinese Proficiency Test, or HSK, outnumbering that of other European countries. And to meet such a growing demand the Confucius Institute in Madrid set up an official course and curriculum in Chinese Literature.
“Every Chinese teacher working here represents China and is the ‘ambassador’ of Chinese culture, tasked with disseminating brilliant Chinese thought, language and culture through teaching and getting along with Spanish students,” Ni Maohua, head of the institute, told People's Daily.
Ni stated the Confucius Institute is also assigned with promoting cultural exchanges between Chinese-Spanish local arts and customs.
“As a matter of fact, the more you get to know about Spanish culture, the more you feel that Chinese and Western cultures have much in common ,” Ni said. “It is the mission of a teacher teaching Chinese to speakers of other languages to help build the ties of kinship between Chinese and foreign cultures, and pass on the message of love in Chinese.”
In 2008, Hanban set up a branch of the Global Center for Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages at ECNU, which has cultivated more than 2,000 professional teachers to date. These kinds of programs have led to a rise in Chinese nationals going abroad to teach Mandarin Chinese across-the-board.
Source: People's Daily