These days in Rovaniemi, learning Chinese is definitely in. A record number of students have rushed to join the beginner’s course in Chinese at the University of Lapland, as fluency in that language has become a very sought after skill here.
“In the past there would be seven to eight students a year in the Chinese language course. But this year it has boomed to about 3o,” said Yujing Ma, the Chinese language teacher who joined the university’s language centre two months ago.
The Finnish and Chinese foreign ministries are sponsoring the course jointly while Ma works at the language centre courtesy of the Chinese state teachers’ exchange programme. China also bears the costs and sends a new Chinese teacher to Lapland every two to three years.
The upward curves in the volume of China-related businesses and the number of Chinese tourists have opened up a wide vista of job opportunities in Rovaniemi, ballooning students’ interest in Chinese, observed Ma. “Everything is related to opportunity and money,” she said very pragmatically, “As Chinese language skills open up job opportunities so the number of students in the course has spiked up.”
Chinese language and culture is a mystery to the outsiders that also entices them to learn the language, quipped Ma. But, according to her, learning Chinese could be a challenge for many Westerners, since it differs in many ways from most other languages.
Anita Fagerström, the curator of the language centre said the challenge of finding a good Chinese language teacher as faced in the past is over. Normally, the course begins in autumn in tandem with other languages; however, as Ma had not arrived by then, the course was deferred to her arrival at the end of last year.
Meanwhile, Lapland Summer University is also set to offer a beginner’s course in Chinese at the end of February. But the venue of the course has not been searched for yet, said the university’s Education Planner Liisa Sirviö, since there seems not to be enough participants in Kemi. If the seats in the course are not filled up, it could be transferred to Rovaniemi.
“In the beginner’s course, a student learns about a hundred characters, among other things. It is a good beginning. However, to learn the language properly, one has to study further,” said Sirviö.
Among the critiques, Kemi Lyceum Rector Pekka Mäkelä thinks Rovaniemi has woken up to the need for Chinese language teaching late. Hence, he said, it is yet not possible to teach Chinese at the high school-level in Lapland. Rovaniemi Lyseonpuisto Rector Jorma Hämäläinen is of the same opinion.
“One year ago, we had an evening class and a teacher from the University of Lapland,” Hämäläinen told the local media, adding, “There is already a similar plan in place for this year.”
Hämäläinen also pointed out that if young people are interested in Chinese, one ought to explore what the adult education centres have to offer.
Overall, said Anita Fagerström, more students used to enrol for language studies in the past than are now. “Cuts in the students’ financial aid and the period of support to complete studies have led to the reduction in the number of language students,” she told the Finnish language newspaper Lapin Kansa.
City Rovaniemi-FNN Report