Irish and Chinese students have been joining forces to share their languages and cultures with each other in weekly social-bilingual workshops organised by the UCD Confucius Institute.
These language exchange sessions have been running since October and bring together Irish and European students of Chinese Studies with Pre-Masters Studies students from China.
“From day 1, results have been spectacular – it’s like an intercultural language learning heaven for an hour each week” enthuses Francis Kane, Pre-Masters Studies lecturer. Some of Dr. Lan Li’s students, many of whom are B.Comm with Chinese Studies undergraduates, will study next year in China as exchange students in Renmin University of China and/or Fudan University.
"A very fortunate coincidence"
“It has been a very fortunate coincidence that there are 18 students in Francis’ class, and also 18 in mine – this perfect numerical balance has allowed the formation of learning pairs and language exchange partnerships over the last semester” comments Dr. Li.
During the 1 hour sessions, the first 30 minutes are spent in the Chinese language medium. This is then followed by a further 30 minutes in the English language medium, in which the students from East and West have further opportunity to communicate, integrate, and form friendships with each other. Both groups benefit greatly from this contact with the target language and culture they are aiming for.
"The most important thing"
“My classmates are really enjoying these workshops” says Lou Hong, class rep of the Pre-Masters Studies group. “For me, the most important thing has been the chance to make friends with local students – some of us meet up after class and are getting to know each other well.”
It is believed that this particular type of workshop is very rare if not unique in Irish university education. What began as an experimental idea has blossomed into one of the highlights of the students’ timetables.