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The University of Southampton
Modern Languages and LinguisticsPart of Humanities

Looking east. New language opportunities

Published: 2 February 2012
Rugang Lu

Increasing numbers of students and staff at the University of Southampton are opting to study Chinese. There are several ways you can join the estimated one billion people across the world who speak and write Chinese. Modern Languages students can choose modules in Chinese; they are also available for students of other disciplines such as engineering. Staff can sign up for daytime taster courses in Chinese and lifelong learning opportunities are offered for the wider community in the evenings.

Teaching Fellow Rugang Lu leads Southampton’s team of Chinese language specialists. He was Associate Professor of English at Ningbo University in China and took his PhD in applied linguistics and language teaching at Southampton.

“Learning Chinese is becoming more popular in Southampton, we have 19 students on our full time first year programme and several are staying on for more advanced study,” says Lu. “Many international students are seizing the opportunity to study the language.”

Students learn spoken Chinese alongside the characters of the written language. Lu says a literate Chinese person would probably know at least 2,500 characters to understand 95 per cent of a newspaper but it is possible to get by in daily life with a knowledge of 1,500 basic characters.

He feels it is the right time to gain an insight into his country through its language. “Many Chinese people aged under 30 know English, because they will have studied it at school but you need to understand their language to appreciate their culture, especially if you travel to China for work or pleasure,” says Lu.

More links are being established between the University of Southampton and Chinese universities such as Nanjing to enable students to experience a year abroad in China.

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