Chinese students majoring in the Serbian language are benefiting from the country’s increasing cooperation with the Republic of Serbia, according to the director of the only Chinese university that has a Serbian language program.
“In recent years, an increasing number of our graduates in Serbian have been recruited by Chinese companies who are either looking to start or continuing business in Serbia,” said Yao Jie, director of the Serbian language research section at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
In the past, the majority of the graduates became government employees with the Commerce and Foreign Affairs ministries.
The university admitted its first students wishing to study Serbian in 1963 and has taught more than 100 graduates so far. Serbian majors are admitted every four years and number around 12 at BFSU.
A master’s degree program was started in 2002, and three students have since gained master’s degrees in the subject.
“Our graduates are Premier Li Keqiang’s interpreters during his visit to Serbia,” Yao said.
Yao graduated from BFSU in the 1980s and pursued further study in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, returning to BFSU as a faculty member.
Although demand for the language is great, mastering Serbian is difficult.
“It is definitely one of the hardest foreign languages for Chinese students to learn,” he said.
Serbian has both complicated grammar and pronunciation. It has six verb forms and seven noun forms.
Huang Xuejia, a native of Harbin, in Heilongjiang province, is a junior Serbian-major student at BFSU. The 21-year-old still remembers the tough days in her first year of learning Serbian.
“It was so hard and I could not get the gist of it then,” Huang said.
Besides attending regular classes and finishing assignments, she spent four to six hours a day studying the language. By the end of her freshman year she had made some progress.
“I could speak the language a little more naturally and worried less about grammatical errors,” she said, adding that it was tougher than her final year in high school, which is usually considered the most difficult year for Chinese students before the national college entrance exam.
Huang still spends four hours a day listening to and reading the news in Serbian.
All Serbian students at BFSU are sponsored by the State to take a one-year exchange program at the University of Belgrade, and Huang is one of them.
“Serbian people are very friendly to the Chinese,” she said. “I remember when I was a volunteer translator at a Chinese higher education expo in Serbia and had to translate for a Serbian visitor to the expo and a Chinese university president. They had a wonderful chat and sang a popular Serbian movie song together.”
“I can sense the power of the culture between the two peoples,” she said.