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Students see benefits from courses in Romanian

2013-11-28 09:44 China Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan

When Liu Jianrong was transferred to the Romanian specialty program at Beijing Foreign Studies University in 2009 after failing to win a place on the French degree course, she was upset.  [Special coverage]

Two years later, after working hard at the lesser-known European language and making a trip to Romania as an exchange student, she has changed her mind.

"I feel lucky in the end to have studied Romanian, because if I hadn't majored in Romanian I wouldn't have had the chance to visit this interesting Eastern Europe country," said Liu.

Liu, who hails from Qingdao, Shandong province, is among 11 students who enrolled in BFSU's undergraduate Romanian program in 2009.

With government funding, all her classmates have visited Romania as part of the one-year overseas program at the University of Bucharest, practicing language skills while experiencing the unique local culture.

"It's kind of an advantage of our specialty, because almost everyone can take part in this trip, while others majoring in more popular languages like French have to compete fiercely to qualify for rare trips to Europe," said the 23-year-old.

BFSU teaches dozens of Central and Eastern European languages, and Romanian has developed into an attractive and mature discipline at the university, aided by a practical curriculum and rich teaching materials.

"The specialty was built upon the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Romania," Zhao Gang, dean of the school of European languages at BFSU, told China Daily.

"Though it's still a minority subject, the development of proficient Romanian speakers is crucial for maintaining bilateral ties," he said.

After honing fundamental skills through intensive reading, vocabulary building and dialogues, students specialize in Romanian culture, state conditions and Sino-Romania relations, starting in their junior year.

To provide authentic oral courses and native exposure, the school has hired a number of language experts from Romania since 1956.

The current Romanian lecturer, Petru Apachitei, is a senior high school teacher in the eastern Romanian city of Iasi. He joined BFSU through an educational exchange program between the two countries last year and has earned a good reputation among his Chinese students.

"He's always active in communicating with us outside of class. He's patient in helping us use the language more fluently," said Liu.

To simulate real-life conversation, Apachitei regularly organizes extracurricular activities, including museum tours, embassy visits and art performances so that students can use the language in real-life settings.

"To teach a language when we are not exposed to the environment is difficult," Apachitei said through an interpreter. "But it's getting better here, as the major has a long history at BFSU and we have a lot of teaching resources to utilize."

Romanian has become the most popular major at the school, with high school graduates competing fiercely for admission, said Pang Jiyang, head of the teaching staff.

However, the job prospects remain limit for the graduates, with few employment options other than work related to Sino-Romanian ties.

According to Zhao, more than 200 students have graduated from the major and only half of them found jobs using their specialty. The favorite employers include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce and foreign branches of Chinese companies and media organizations.

The school also keeps tight control on enrollment figures, recruiting just 12 to 16 students every two years to fit the demands of the labor market.

"I can sense that the motivation of some of the students to improve has been affected by the limited job opportunities, but that's normal for a minority language," said Apachitei.

More cultural exchanges and economic cooperation between China and Eastern European countries has meant a growth in the demand for Romanian learners in recent years, and Liu said she expects more.

"Hopefully, more State-owned companies will expand their business to Romania so we can realize our personal value," she said.

That is not only good news for students, but also an opportunity for the major to receive more policy and financial support from government authorities.

"We've already received some research funding from the government as a special-talent training center and more will be on offer if Sino-Romanian ties continue to grow," said Zhao.

Li Keqiang visits Romania, Uzbekistan

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