Ladies and Gentlemen,
It was my honor to join the 4th Asia Research Center Director’s Workshop. Thank Vietnam National University for creating such an opportunity for us to strengthen exchange and cooperation.
I would like to begin my speech to you with a brief introduction to Beijing Foreign Studies University. As a university with national and international influence, BFSU lives up to its reputation with its programs on 34 languages. It has produced more than 300 ambassadors and 600 counsellors for China, which has earned it the name of "Cradle of Diplomats".
With the development of China"s reform and opening, especially after China"s accession to WTO, the Chinese economy is being integrated into the world economy at an unprecedented speed. Pressured by the globalization of the world economy and the internationalization of higher education, we have included in the next five-year development of BFSU / a plan of setting up 8 new language programs, bringing the total number of languages taught in BFSU to 42. This is also in response to the recent Chinese government"s initiation of building a harmonious society and a harmonious world. All of the 8 new language programs are all on "non-international and minority" foreign languages. By this I mean foreign languages that are spoken in just one country, or in a small number of countries or verbal communities around the world. Now, I"d like to tell you a bit about this plan and would be very grateful to hear your comments on it.
First of all, the vigorous promotion of specialists in non-international and minority foreign languages will meet the demand for academic research employing Chinese characteristics. It will also help to satisfy the need for the Chinese to learn from the accomplishments of all of the diverse civilizations around the world. Here, I want to emphasize the crucial importance of sending students who are majoring in the humanities and the social sciences to study abroad. In order for China to deserve the
name of a truly great nation, she must be able to recognize and appreciate the unique achievements of other great cultures, and she must be able to use her acquired knowledge to enrich and develop her own distinctive national culture. As a vast country with a history of five thousand years, China needs special personnel and trained experts with a good mastery of non-international and minority foreign languages to undertake research in the important field of international cultural exchange. Therefore, this type inter-disciplinary education should be enthusiastically promoted.
Secondly, the timely development of specialists in non-international foreign languages will help China to satisfy the increasing demand for the major nations of the world to be sensitive to the wide diversity of languages and cultures as they pursue their common goal of cooperative international relations and world peace. Without exaggeration, in the two decades since China adopted its policy of reform and “opening up,” the world has witnessed China’s unprecedented development in virtually every field of human endeavour, and it has seen her gradual integration into the international community as a leading player. Since China’s membership in the WTO, her role in the world as an important emerging nation has led to her participation in various international events of unparalleled scope and depth, and it has encouraged her to take part in extensive international exchanges. It is clear that China has embarked on the road to peaceful development within the global community. She perseveres in her ongoing commitment to reform and to “opening up,” and she continues to seek friendly and cooperative partnerships with different nations around the world on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. By merging her own national interests in economic prosperity and growth with those of the region and the world, China maintains her active role in promoting economic globalization. In the process, China has established and cultivated stable long-term, and friendly relations with a great many countries around the world, including those countries that speak minority and non-international languages.
Thirdly, the education of competent specialists in non-international foreign languages is really the only way to establish and maintain meaningful dialogues between the various world civilizations, and it is really the only way to set apart and protect world cultural diversity. In this way, the training of specialists in non-
international foreign languages can serve a key role in helping to bring about a harmonious world order. Premier Wen Jiabao made exactly this point in a speech he delivered last year in France. He said, “Cultural diversity is an important character of human civilization. As an objective reality, cultural diversity is as important to human society as biological diversity is to Nature. Only when cultural diversity is respected can human civilization develop.” Despite the best of intentions, however, disagreements and misunderstandings can arise and intensify between diverse nations, and these conflicts can produce new problems for us all, and new challenges for us to address and resolve. Therefore, we must lay more emphasis on the encouragement of a harmonious co-existence among the nations of the world, and this harmony can only be brought about and maintained through creative dialogues, and through productive exchanges between the different civilizations.
Fourthly, the development of skilled specialists in the area of non-international and minority foreign languages serves the interest of both our people and our nation because these specialists can help to provide the means to an informed discussion on the most effective approaches to a foreign policy that can lead, ultimately, to world peace. And after all, global peace and prosperity are the two major issues of our times. It goes without saying that most sensible people in the world wish daily for world peace and for a good life for themselves and their neighbours. But global peace is a tall order, and there are many subtle and complex factors that pose an ongoing threat to global peace and prosperity. In order to attempt to understand and to resolve these difficult and sometimes overwhelmingly convoluted problems, and thereby to seek a cooperative and flexible coexistence between very different nations, it is necessary to have a thorough understanding of the political, economic, social, historic, cultural, and religious differences that separate these peoples and their countries. And the most direct, the most efficient, and the most effective way of making a thorough study of these diverse cultures is through the study of their respective languages, most of which are non-international, predominantly minority, and mainly culturally specific languages.
Beijing Foreign Studies University boasts the largest number of foreign language programs among all of the key institutions of higher learning in the whole of China. At present, BFSU offers 42 foreign language programs, including over 30 non-
international foreign languages, of which 13 are unique to the specific countries of their origin, and thus are called “the nation’s only children.” Over the past 65 years,
BFSU has built up a long and innovative history in the research and instruction of both the frequently-taught international languages, like English, French and German, but also in the special minority and non-international foreign languages, and as a consequence BFSU has established a series of practical and effective models for language and cultural acquisition.
Taking into consideration the trend in the world academy towards a global economy and towards the internationalization of education, Beijing Foreign Studies University plans to adopt three pedagogical measures that will ensure the healthy development and the effective teaching of non-international foreign languages, and these employ both innovative and scientifically grounded strategies:
(1) To extend the range and depth of the students’ learning opportunities and experiences through international cooperation, and that is by having the originating country of the non-international and/or minority language participate jointly in the development of the language programs and in their instruction. We plan to further increase the richness of the program and create more cultural opportunities for the undergraduate students’ of non-international and minority foreign languages by giving every one of them the opportunity to study in an appropriate overseas university for a half year or for a full year, and to thereby to obtain transferable credits to BFSU from that particular foreign university. In this way, these students will hopefully acquire a better command of the non-international or minority foreign language through their immersion within a rich language and cultural environment, and thus it is hoped that they will gain a more direct and more profound comprehension of the various aspects of the host country, not only in terms of language-uses and conventions, but also in terms of the country’s politics, economics, society and culture.
(2) To put more emphasis on the training of multi-lingual talents by encouraging those students majoring in non-international and minority foreign languages to learn a second or third foreign language and to obtain a second or third degree; and finally
(3) To provide a solid systematic insurance for those students majoring in non-international and minority foreign languages by reforming the graduate students’ recommendation system, especially for programs that incorporate aspects of the
Bachelor’s and the Master’s degrees.
The vital importance to China of the internationalization of the training of inter-disciplinary and inter-lingual specialists in non-international and minority foreign languages is apparent for the following three reasons:
First, it is advantageous to the country to train specialists who have a global cultural awareness and an international field of vision.
Second, it is beneficial to the students’ language and cultural growth and enhancement for them to study abroad; and
Third, it is conducive to the promotion of international cultural exchanges and to the development and the enrichment of indigenous Chinese culture.