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China-Russia reciprocal language years bear fruit
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The grand closing ceremony of the 2010 Chinese Language Year in Russia held in MOSCOW Wednesday marked the official end to the reciprocal language year programs between China and Russia over the past two years.

The programs, which have yielded rich fruits and have been of far-reaching significance, have enhanced the interest of the Chinese and Russian peoples to learn each other's languages.

The programs also helped to enhance the countries' mutual understanding and traditional friendship, and advanced the social basis for the deepening of bilateral political trust and pragmatic cooperation.

Catalyst for language learning craze

After the staging of national years in 2006 and 2007, the reciprocal language years in 2009 and 2010 further sparked a learning craze in China and Russia for each other's language.

During the "Chinese sing Russian songs" competition hosted by China last year, more than 12,000 people participated. Russian judges were carried away by emotion when contestants beautifully performed "Evening Near Moscow," "Troika," and other old Russian songs.

While tens of thousands of Chinese can sing "Katyusha," multitudes of Russian families this year regularly watched a Chinese teaching program on TV called "Hello, China."

Via the multimedia Chinese teaching program, Russian TV channel Culture introduced China with a poetic description of the Yellow River, the cradle of Chinese civilization.

To date, more than 10,000 Russian students are learning Chinese in more than 100 universities in China. At the same time, more than 130 universities and dozens of middle and primary schools in Russia are offering Chinese courses to many thousands of students.

During the Chinese Language Year in 2010, five new Confucius Institutes were launched across Russia, bringing the total number of institutes up to 17, along with three Confucius Classrooms.

Even President Dmitry Medvedev said he was interested in learning Chinese. During his September visit to the Dalian Institute of Foreign Languages in northeast China, Medvedev said "maybe I will learn Chinese after my retirement. Chinese is as hard as Russian, but it is interesting."

Feast of Sino-Russian cultural exchanges

Events of the reciprocal language year programs covered not only the sphere of language teaching, but also almost all sectors of humanities including education, culture, media, film, drama and scientific technology.

In this sense the language year programs have indeed presented a cultural feast for Chinese and Russia.

Cooperation on humanities has become a new highlight among the flourishing advancement of bilateral strategic partnership of cooperation, according to Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong.

By staging reciprocal national years and language years, Sino-Russian cultural cooperation has reached an unprecedented high level, Liu said.

During the Russian Language Year in China last year, more than 260 activities were hosted with hundreds of thousands of participants. This year more than 200 various events were staged across 23 Russian regions, said Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov.

From those events, many Russians had a great chance to enrich their knowledge about Chinese culture, literature, history and modern life, he said.

The reciprocal language years, which have become an unique platform for social representatives from both countries to communicate with each other, helped boost the positive image of China in Russia, Zhukov said.

"We would take turns to host major events such as cultural days and cultural weeks in our two countries, establishing them as a mechanism," he said. "We would help each other in creation of multimedia products, computer games, film festivals, TV series, book publishing, among others."

Seeder of freindship for generations

The staging of reciprocal language years, which coincided with the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and Russia, has helped promoted the idea of friendship for generations between the people of the two countries.

In particular, the broad participation of youth of the two countries in the events have laid the foundation for the continuation of their traditional friendship in the future.

Upon consensus reached between leaders of the two countries, a group of children came from earthquake-affected regions of China to the Russian far-eastern city of Vladivostok for a visit in 2008.

The children managed to say some whole sentences in Russian after spending some of their time studying the language.

In the summer of 2009, another group of 500 Chinese pupils visited Vladivostok. While in Russia, the children learned to understand simple dialogue and sing popular Russian songs. They got along with their Russian peers so well that many cried when the time came for departure.

A year later, a group of Russian school children went to China. They had a good time in the host country and learned to say in Chinese "I have fallen in love with China, and I'll be missing you."

Precisely as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has put it: "With wonderful and charismatic Chinese and Russian languages and cultures gaining popularity in each other's countries, I believe the friendship between Chinese and Russian people will definitely continue to deepen, and our ties will enjoy a brighter future."

To sum up, the successful reciprocal language years have injected new momentum into the all-round cooperation between China and Russia, and have thus boosted advancement of the China-Russia relations of strategic cooperation and partnership and the countries' relationship of good neighborliness and friendly collaboration.

(China Daily November 30, 2010)

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