After three years of online teaching, this year's Chinese Language Summer School at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University returned onsite. More than 120 students from countries including Indonesia, South Korea, Germany, Thailand, and Russia gathered at XJTLU for four weeks to learn Mandarin and immerse themselves in Chinese culture.
Katja Kuttenberger, a student from Germany, had studied Chinese for three years before joining the summer school. She says participating fulfilled a long-held ambition.
"It's always been my biggest dream that one day I could come to China to study Chinese and learn about the culture. I came across the XJTLU Chinese Language Summer School through an internet search.
"It's a perfect way to combine learning more about China, its culture and its people, with learning Chinese at the same time. "
Katja Kuttenberge(right) came to XJTLU Chinese Language Summer School from Germany
Kuttenberger adds that she especially liked the daily two-hour language classes, which offered abundant opportunities to practise her Chinese listening and speaking skills:
"The teachers always talked to us and asked questions in Chinese, and we had conversations including newly learned words. At the end of each class, we also had activities like creating a mock product advertisement or doing an interview in Chinese in pairs or in a small group."
Language classes engage students
Ka Du, Associate Language Lecturer at the School of Languages and the summer school’s coordinator, says that language teaching this year emphasised practicality.
"We tried to make the teaching materials and activities as close to real life as possible to improve students' Chinese proficiency,” she says.
Du says all students used official HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test) textbooks and that the XJTLU Modern Languages Centre placement test sorted students into HSK 1 to HSK 5 classes.
"This matched the students to a teaching pace that suited them well and will be a benefit for them when they take HSK exams in the future," Du says.
Students using official HSK textbooks
In addition to Chinese language enthusiasts worldwide, the summer school also garnered significant interest from international students at XJTLU.
Du says that a key goal for this year’s summer school was to help XJTLU international students make a smooth transition to onsite learning, ensuring they are well-prepared for their experiences in both academic and daily life in Suzhou.
Geonwoo Cho, a Year Three student from South Korea studying BEng Mechatronics and Robotic Systems, is continuing his studies at XJTLU after a one-and-half-year gap.
"I realised that although I had been trying to engage with Chinese friends informally, improving my Chinese without a structured official module proved very challenging,” he says.
“Therefore, I decided to sign up for this summer school to regain and enhance my Chinese proficiency with intensive language learning in a formal setting.”
In addition to the Chinese language class each weekday, the summer school also provided cultural workshops on Tuesdays and language corner activities on Thursdays. Furthermore, field trips to the famous Pingjiang Road and Master of the Nets Garden were organised for students to experience Suzhou's traditional culture.
Students making embroidered keyrings
Students showing off their calligraphy
Students making Chinese Dingsheng Cake
Students learning Mahjong
Students visiting Pingjiang Road
Cho says he enjoyed participating in a language corner workshop that focused on teaching students how to express the flavours of food in Chinese cuisine, such as sour, salty, spicy, and bitter.
“During this session, we were presented with various Chinese dishes representing different provinces,” he says. “We had the opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in Chinese cuisine, engaging our senses on various levels.
"We observed the appearance of the dishes, smelled the aromatic flavours, felt the textures, and savoured the tastes. It provided a deep understanding of Chinese culinary traditions, which are integral to Chinese culture and society. These hands-on experiences are unforgettable."
Students practising Chinese speaking in a language corner
Students experiencing Suzhou cuisine
By Xinyi Liu and XJTLU Global
Photos by Meiting Shu Ye, Yiwei Chen and Wenhao Ye
Edited by Tamara Kaup and Katharina Zhu