“Through this year of continued learning of chinese language, their progress has been significant,” says Chinese lecturer Wencong Jing about her students.

Wencong Jing, a lecturer from China, has spent almost a year teaching Chinese at our university, in an interview she told us about her impressions from Slovakia, the pitfalls of learning a foreign language, the challenges of teaching Slovak students and much more. Read the interview with her.

What inspired you to come to Slovakia to teach Chinese?

My major is teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages. I have been studying this major for six years. I hope that the professional knowledge I have acquired can be applied to actual teaching. At the same time, I also hope that more and more people can gain insight into China through learning Chinese. Additionally, Slovakia is a beautiful and safe country, providing an excellent environment for teaching and learning the language.
How has your experience been teaching Chinese to Slovak students?

It was a very interesting and unforgettable experience. The students are brilliant and friendly, displaying curiosity and a keen interest in both the Chinese language and culture. Some express a desire to travel to China, while others aspire to study there, demonstrating a serious commitment to learning Chinese. I am often pleased with the quality of the class notes they take. Moreover, UCM provides a highly convenient teaching environment for Chinese instruction. Modern teaching equipment supports students in their language learning journey through the use of pictures, videos, movies, and more.
What are some of the challenges you've faced in the classroom, and how have you overcome them?

Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to learn much Slovak, which means I can't communicate with the students in Slovak during class. However, I'm fortunate that the students are proficient in English, so we will be able to communicate effectively in English. Additionally, one of the challenges I face is the continuous influx of new students at the beginning of each course. To ensure that the new students can catch up with the progress, I need to review the material from the previous course. However, I also need to ensure that this review doesn't bore the existing students. To address this, I incorporate interactive games during the review sessions to engage every student. Moreover, I pay close attention to balancing the time between reviewing previous material and introducing new knowledge.

Have you found any interesting cultural differences between Slovakia and China that you incorporate into your teaching?
When discussing cultural differences, there are indeed numerous disparities between China and Slovakia. For instance, in Chinese Pinyin, there are diacritic marks resembling "hats" placed on certain letters, such as "āáǎà". While similar marks exist in Slovak, they serve entirely different purposes. To prevent confusion, I make sure to remind students to pay close attention to these distinctions during my teaching. Another notable difference lies in traditional Chinese attire, which is truly remarkable. To delve into this aspect of Chinese culture, I organized activities where students dressed in traditional costumes from the Song and Ming Dynasties. This provided them with firsthand experience and insight into the cultural significance of traditional Chinese attire. Furthermore, I arranged sessions for students to explore Chinese calligraphy and painting. These activities were met with enthusiasm and appreciation from the students.

How do you see your students progressing in learning Chinese over the past year?

In fact, nearly all students have made remarkable strides in their Chinese language skills. Beginners have mastered Chinese Pinyin, can accurately read Chinese vocabulary, and have acquired proficiency in many topics and common daily life sentences, including greetings, self-introductions, countries, food, numbers, and more.  Simultaneously, among the students, there are many who had prior exposure to Chinese. Through a year of continuous learning, their progress in Chinese has been significant. They are now able to fluently discuss topics such as travel, weather, festivals, and other interesting subjects in Chinese. Their Chinese vocabulary has notably expanded. Furthermore, I'm proud to mention that two students achieved second and third place in the "22nd Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students-Slovakia Division." This achievement highlights their dedication and the effectiveness of our Chinese language program.

How have you adapted to life in Slovakia over the past year?

I have adapted very well to life in Slovakia over the past year. Trnava is a beautiful and tranquil city, and living here is remarkably convenient. I can find almost everything I need, and to my pleasant surprise, there are even a few Asian supermarkets available. The weather in Slovakia bears a striking resemblance to Tianjin, the city where I lived in China. The four seasons are distinct, and the temperatures are similar, although Tianjin's summers tend to be hotter. Furthermore, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Lenka (Lenka Labudová, OMV UCM). She has provided me with invaluable support in both my personal and professional life, enabling me to quickly acclimate to life in Slovakia.
Are there any aspects of Slovak culture that surprised you or that you particularly enjoy?

I truly admire Slovak architecture, particularly its castles, churches, and monasteries. During my time here, I've had the opportunity to visit remarkable sites such as Spis Castle, Bratislava Castle, and Trencin Castle, among others. Each of these castles showcases a unique architectural style—some exhibit medieval fortress-style designs, while others boast Renaissance-style palace architecture. However, they all share one common characteristic: their stunning beauty and rich historical significance, which embody the illustrious history of Slovakia.

Do you find any common challenges that Slovak students face when learning the Chinese language?

Slovak students encounter several common challenges while learning Chinese. For instance, mastering Chinese pronunciation presents difficulties due to the unique aspect of tones. Initially, students often struggle to pronounce the four tones accurately and require extensive practice to achieve proficiency. Furthermore, while students may enjoy writing Chinese characters, they often approach it more like 'drawing' them. This presents a significant challenge as mastering the structure, stroke order, individual strokes, and understanding the cultural nuances embedded within Chinese characters requires substantial effort and dedication.

What are your plans for the future in terms of teaching and cultural exchange?

In the future, I aspire to continue my journey in Chinese teaching, aiming to facilitate a deeper understanding of Chinese language and culture among a broader audience. Additionally, I look forward to opportunities to explore other countries and immerse myself in diverse cultures, fostering cross-cultural understanding and personal growth."
What advice would you give to Slovak students who are learning Chinese or any other foreign language?

First and foremost, learning Chinese demands patience and diligence. Consistent daily practice is essential, ensuring a solid understanding of each Chinese character, word, and grammar rule. Secondly, emphasis should be placed on listening and speaking skills. Engaging in conversations with Chinese friends, attending Chinese gatherings, and immersing oneself in Chinese culture can significantly enhance oral proficiency. Additionally, incorporating diverse learning resources can make the learning process more enjoyable. Watching Chinese TV series and movies, using Chinese learning apps, and exploring online courses and forums provide valuable opportunities to reinforce language skills and gain cultural insights.

Submitted by: Andrej Brník
Responsible person: Mgr. Nikola Vanková, MBA
Source: Mgr. Nikola Vanková, MBA
Inserted: 22.2.2024