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Foreigners Learning With Talking China
Werner Gelpke, a 55-year-old German who is working in Shanghai, made up his mind to brush up his Chinese after two weeks arriving in the city.

"Only in good Chinese can I successfully communicate with local people and get involved in the local society," he said.

Gelpke joined a Talking China club,in which foreigners like him gather and talk on all topics, but only in Chinese.

Talking China is one of the language clubs that are sponsored by local people to help the city's foreigners to improve their Chinese language skills.

"We hope in the club foreigners will improve their Chinese skills as well as get closer to Chinese culture," said Su Yang, Talking China's manager. Su is a professor with Shanghai International Studies Institute.

Language experts believe the clubs will help a great deal the non-Chinese natives to use Chinese.

Noting these clubs function in the similar way as "English corners" have been doing in China, helping local people practice English, SISU Professor Yang Chengzhong said the clubs will provide more opportunities for foreigners to speak Chinese.

"Now, I can communicate with local people in simple Chinese," said Gelpke.

"In the club, I find a favorable environment for language learners, because it's just like a summer party and people needn't worry that they would be mocked for poor pronunciation and grammar," he said.

"All the people here would offer to help you by correcting mistakes."

Gelpke's decision to go to the Chinese club came after an unhappy experience with a local cab driver.

"Since I was unable to express myself clearly in Chinese when I first came to Shanghai,I made a trip from the city's Xujiahui to Huahai Road, a one-and-a-half-hour drive," he said. The trip usually takes some 15 minutes if the driver follows the appropriate route.

(eastday.com June 17, 2002)

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