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15 June, 2024
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Shanghai students do it Greek style

Chinese university makes waves in global Greek culture

Charalambos Stylianou

In the age of digital society and social media, a viral TikTok video has the power to transform lives and introduce an unexpected culture to the world. This time, the spotlight is on students from Shanghai, who impressively greet the camera in flawless Greek and express their admiration for Greek philosophy, mythology, culture, and architecture.

A well-known TikTok user, Marianna Lee has sparked global discussions about the University of International Studies in Shanghai. Through her videos, where she teaches the Greek language, asks passersby about Greek culture, and even tastes ouzo and tsipouro, Marianna has successfully popularized Modern Greek Studies from the University of International Studies in Shanghai to a global audience. Today, Marianna works in the media industry and is recognized as an exceptional student by her professor, Sophia Hu.

Sophia Hu, not only a professor but also the director of the Department of Modern Greek Studies at the university, briefly shared her career journey and goals:

"I started learning Greek in 2000 when I enrolled at the University of International Studies in Shanghai (SISU). After four years, I began teaching in the same department, marking the beginning of my career. At that time, China's relationship with Greece wasn't as close. Many Chinese people had limited knowledge about Greece, and our students had few opportunities to visit the country."

The university has since established cooperative partnerships with renowned institutions such as the University of Athens, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Ionian University, the University of Ioannina, and the University of Cyprus. In recent years, almost all students have been given the chance to study in Greece, providing them with firsthand experience of Greek culture.

I see learning a foreign language as a gateway to explore a different culture, and Greek is a beautiful language with its unique pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.

The Department of Modern Greek Studies was established in 1972 and was the sole department in China where the Greek language was taught until 2007. That same year, diplomatic relations between China and Greece were established.

"To be honest, before learning the Greek language, I had limited knowledge of Greek culture. For me, Greece and the Greek language were enchanting. When I chose to learn Greek, it was considered a rare foreign language among Chinese people. Given the limited number of people acquainted with this language and country, I believe I will have numerous opportunities in the future to foster communication between the two nations," Director Sophia Hu explained.

Zhang Shuyang, a second-year student, shared his deep affection for the Greek language, stating:

"I see learning a foreign language as a gateway to explore a different culture, and Greek is a beautiful language with its unique pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. It helps me expand my horizons."

"During my childhood, I was fascinated by Greek mythology and found it incredibly romantic. The adventurous and captivating journey of Odysseus at sea appealed to me. I often wondered about the Greek language used during those times. Therefore, I chose Greek as my area of specialization," added fellow student Zhou Yining.

The students also acknowledged the challenges they faced while learning Greek:

"In my opinion, the most challenging words are those that inherit conjugation rules from Ancient Greek, such as 'echo,' ''synistome,' and 'prodiegrammenos'," mentioned student Zhang Shuyang.

"Generally, word declensions are difficult, but prefixes attached to verbs troubled me even more. Examples include 'antistame,' 'antikathistame,' and 'yfistame.' These words are quite intricate," explained student Weng Binxiang.

According to students, the university provides a conducive environment for Greek studies with excellent professors and learning opportunities, such as collaborative programs with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the University of Athens. Most study programs offer students the chance to work in Chinese state institutions or companies investing in Greece, and some even continue their studies in Greece or abroad.

The students also expressed their keen interest in the Greek language and culture. They emphasized that learning Greek opens doors to understanding European cultures as many European languages originated from Greek. While acknowledging the challenges, they believe the knowledge and experiences gained from learning Greek are rewarding.

The final report underscores the value of multiculturalism and intercultural communication, highlighting how exchanging knowledge and experiences between different cultures strengthens communities and generates new opportunities for the future. By teaching and promoting the Greek language and culture, students discover the beauty and rich heritage of Greece, expanding their perspectives. Learning Greek plays a pivotal role in strengthening cultural bonds and fostering intercultural understanding.

Cyprus  |  education  |  China  |  Greek  |  Greece  |  tourism  |  culture

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