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An interview with a fourth-year student

Did you speak any Chinese before you came to this school?
No, not a word. I could not read or write any characters and I did not speak the language.

Is it feasible to do it all in four years' time?
Yes. You'll get the basics to speak and write Chinese, but, of course, you'll have to work for it. It is very well possible to complete the programme within four years.

How hard is it to learn the language?
Speaking is sometimes hard, because of the four tones that have to be quite distinct in order to avoid confusion. This is an important part of the programme of the first few weeks – a lot of time is spent on practising the tones.

Can you give an example?
'Wen' , for example, has two meanings, depending on the tone that is used. The first meaning is 'kissing' and the second is 'asking'. If you do not use the correct tone, you will say 'May I kiss you/' instead of 'May I ask you'

And how about writing Chinese characters?
Chinese characters consist of lines that are drawn in a specific order. Right from the start you'll learn how to follow the right pattern, and after the first few weeks you can do quite some writing. Once you get the hang of it, it is a matter of practising.

Is it possible to apply your knowledge during the programme outside the school?
Absolutely. I, for one, have taught English classes to Chinese children and I have also worked in a Chinese restaurant. Other students have worked as tour guides over the summer or have guided Chinese tourists in the city of Maastricht.

How do people react when you start speaking Chinese to them?
Well, there were these two Chinese men who were discussing the bad weather and how they missed the sun. When I said I
completely agreed, they were stunned. Of course, they went on and I had no idea what they were saying because, at the time, I had only mastered a little bit of the language.

What is the nicest thing about studying Chinese?
Beijing! In the third year of the curriculum there is a half-year period abroad for study purposes. In the fourth year you do your internship, and this can be a foreign place or one in the Netherlands.

Do you learn a lot about Chinese culture?
You learn a lot about the way of doing business, including the whats and hows in the business context. You learn most of the practical things during your stay in Beijing.

How big is the school?
On average you start with 45 first-year students, which makes communication easy and you easily get to know the other students. There is a lot of direct contact with the teaching staff, which also facilitates making practical arrangements.

How about future prospects?
Since the programme is fairly general, there are many options. Some graduates work in embassies, or work in the tourism sector, in journalism, or in cultural affairs. Many prefer a commercial context and work for companies as account manager or similar positions; some even start their own
business. With the rise of China as the world's economic superpower, the number of jobs will only increase.

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