Perhaps the story of “Li Xiaoyue” enrollment in the university to study Arabic is the strangest among the stories of many of her Chinese colleagues with the same major. One joke of a colleague led her to a learning experience “the most complex language in the world,” she says.
Li Xiao recalled 9 years back when she was preparing to take the university entrance exam, when a colleague made a joke about the high oil prices in Arab countries, advising her to learn their language to have a good job opportunity, and she added – to Al Jazeera Net – that she found herself studying a language You didn’t know about her or her speakers.
The majority of Chinese students who study Arabic agree that learning the “Dhad” language was purely a coincidence or in response to the family’s desire.
Jian Hao Yue says that his grandfather chose for him to study Arabic after the comparison was between it and German, and that was 10 years ago, as the grandfather believed that China would start cooperation with Arab countries, and that his grandson would have a good job opportunity.
As for “Wang Haigang”, he found himself forced to choose the Arabic major after his companions preceded him in choosing other disciplines, to find himself studying a language “whose letters are intertwined like strings” as he describes it to Al Jazeera Net.
“Zhao Nan” chose to study Arabic because of her prior intention to study an ancient oriental language. The first thing that stopped her in Arabic was the way it was written and read from right to left, unlike other languages.
A hard ride
Despite the small number of Arabic letters, it was a major obstacle in the path of language study for many Chinese, so pronouncing some letters correctly was and still is a problem for the majority of the Chinese speakers of Arabic.
Jian Hao Yue says that he and many of his colleagues in the major failed to pronounce the letter R, so that some of them used chili pepper to bite his tongue so that he could pronounce it properly, and it was a successful experience for some of them, adding that the letters “r zh za” are still a challenge for Him, and fails many times to pronounce it correctly.
As for Wang Haigang, he believes that the difficulty that he faced at the beginning of his academic career lay in the intertwining of letters with each other, in addition to the method of forming sentences according to their sound rules. He admits that conversation is the biggest challenge facing the Arabic-speaking Chinese.
Opportunities and challenges
The Chinese “Belt and Road” initiative constituted a golden opportunity for Arab students in the country of the Dragon, as relations with Arab countries flourished in all aspects, which was positively reflected in the future of teaching Arabic in China.
Wei Zhirong (Raghda), Vice Dean of the School of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of International Studies in Beijing, says that exchanges with Arab countries have facilitated the process of obtaining academic references and educational resources, and have given the opportunity for some Chinese students to complete their studies in the Arab world.
The original sources and references constitute a good material for Chinese professors who teach Arabic to improve teaching methods, and their rapprochement with Arab countries enabled them to invite Arab experts to give specialized lectures, which contribute to improving the learning outcomes of Chinese students.
Wei Zhi Rong – to Al Jazeera Net – points out that technological development has helped language learners overcome many of the difficulties students faced several years ago, but she adds that challenges still face students and prevent them from mastering Arabic, including starting to learn it at the stage. The university and not from a young age, and its people spoke colloquial dialects that are difficult for non-Arabs to understand.
The university professor continues that learning Standard Arabic prevents the integration of Chinese speakers of this language into societies whose people speak local dialects, as it is difficult for Chinese students to learn the local dialects of each Arab country.
How did Arabic begin in China?
Many references talk about a long history of Arabic in China. Most of them believe that the beginning of their education was with the beginning of the introduction of Islam into the Chinese empire about 1,300 years ago, and education remained for hundreds of years confined to mosques whose construction flourished in the coastal cities of eastern China, the place of residence of a large number of Muslim merchants who began to travel north to meet the requirements of trade, and began to expand Thus, the area of residence of Muslims after some nationalities began to believe in Islam.
During the modern history of China, the credit goes to the Chinese Arabist Muhammad McCain for taking her education out of the halls of mosques and officially incorporating it for the first time in the curricula of Chinese higher education.
Those wishing to study Arabic can now enroll in about 70 universities and institutes across the country, with more than a thousand students graduating annually across China.