On April 23, His Excellency Zhang Junsai, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Canada, hosted a reception for Canadian “Chinese Bridge” contestants. Present at the event were around 300 students and Chinese teachers from McGill University, Université Laval, Université de Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal, Concordia University, University of Ottawa and Dalhousie University. The reception was MCed by Mr. Chen Wenshen, the Embassy’s Minister Councilor of Education.
In his speech, Ambassador Zhang fascinated the audience with a vivid account of the challenges and joy of language learning, the cultural roots and relevance of the Chinese language and how learning Chinese will influence one’s way of life and thinking.
Ambassador Zhang encouraged the students to study in China, observe in person what is happening on the ground and share ideas and views with their Chinese counterparts.
Ambassador Zhang said that he is looking forward to more displays of talents, creativity and humor from Canadian students in future “Chinese Bridge” competitions and that like Mark Rowswell, the students will contribute their unique share to China-Canada friendship and partnership.
Ambassador Zhang’s remarks were received with laughter and applause from the audience, who later expressed a renewed understanding of the Chinese language and a growing interest in China’s past, present and future.
Following a photo-op between Ambassador Zhang and “Chinese Bridge” competition winners, the students staged a creative show of singing, dancing and cross talks with distinct Chinese flavor.
Before the reception, the students enjoyed a photo exhibit on China and joined the Embassy staff for a quick session in dumpling making.
The event was covered by several local and national media outlets.
Speech by Ambassador Zhang Junsai
At the “Chinese Bridge” Reception
April 23, 2011, Ottawa
Members of the faculty,
My dear students,
It’s a real pleasure to have you all with us today.
My colleagues in the Educational Section told me, that you are very interested in Chinese and the Chinese culture.
They said that the young men and women present today are the “old China hands” among Canadian college students. (Laughter.)
I have no doubt about that.
It’s been five months since I came to Canada.
I’ve traveled around and met many Canadians.
One thing that surprised and inspired me was that many of these people, a lot older than you are, preferred to talk to me in Chinese. (Laughter.)
I’m excited and frustrated at the same time-
Excited because more Canadians know about or are getting to know about China;
Frustrated because I realized that there will be little time left for me to polish my English here. (Laughter.)
That doesn’t sound so good. (Laughter.)
Now, to those of you who find learning Chinese a piece of cake, I say to you, as any Chinese your age would comment at the moment:
你们真给力，meaning You Rock. (Laughter.)
To those of you who had a hard time with Chinese, I say to you: we all did.
That’s what happens when you take on a foreign language. So hang in there, don’t give up.
To me, language learning is like hockey. To play like a pro, you’ve got to do three things- practice, practice, practice. (Laughter.)
When it comes to studying Chinese, a language where people talk like singing, write like sketching, different characters sound the same, same character reads differently, there’s no detour.
No wonder some people say if you can be fluent in Chinese, there’s nothing you cannot do. (Laughter.)
Just as hockey is much more than a winter sport, the Chinese language is way beyond a tool for communication.
It’s the carrier of China’s culture, the growing legacy of Chinese wisdom and a way of life and thinking.
In your course of study:
You will learn not only the tones but also China’s 5000 years of history;
You will understand not only the concision and elegance of characters but also Chinese philosophies of benevolence, love of people and pursuit of harmony without uniformity;
You will get not only the idioms but how China sees the world and itself.
This is why hundreds of thousands of college students made Chinese as their language of choice from London to New Delhi to right here in Ottawa.
This is why President Obama announced that the US will send 100,000 students to study in China in five years.
This is also why Chinese is riding a wave of popularity with more than 40 million learners around the world.
There’s no better time to learn Chinese here than now.
In the past few years, China and Canada have had closer cooperation in commerce, trade, tourism, culture, education and people to people exchange.
More Canadian companies are doing business in China.
At the same time, more Chinese companies are turning their eyes to Canada.
Since June last year, over 200,000 Chinese tourists have travelled to Canada for sight-seeing, ice wine, maple syrup and their favorite teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Laughter.)
At the moment, more than 50,000 Chinese students are studying in Canada. Many of them are in your universities.
The growth of China-Canada relationship needs talents like you, who speak the language of both of our countries.
Mastering Chinese will open doors to one fifth of world’s population.
You will have direct access to first-hand information on China from China.
You will know that proud as we were, China’s history did not stop at the invention of compass, gunpowder, papermaking and printing. (Laughter.)
China has become world’s second largest economy.
Like Canada, we are working hard to make our development sustainable, environment friendly and energy-conserving.
Keep learning Chinese. You will find that Chinese culture is not just about Kong fu, acrobatics and Chinese food. (Laughter.)
You will know that there are other world famous Chinese apart from Confucius, Jackie Chan and Yao Ming. (Laughter.)
You will see that our differences in history, status quo and values did not stand in the way of our friendship and cooperation, that China-Canada relationship is not a zero sum game.
Our economies have a lot to offer each other. Our cooperation in fields such as energy and resources exploration, railways and telecommunications has huge potential.
A more prosperous China and Canada benefits us both.
The best place to learn Chinese is China.
Our government has set up scholarships for Canadian college students such as you to study in China.
We hope more young people like you will go to China to study or join exchange programs.
This way, you will be able to travel across China, have a taste of local customs and see for yourselves what’s happening on the ground.
You will also have the chance to interact with your Chinese counterparts, many of whom are studying your languages and looking forward to know more about Canada.
This year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Chinese Bridge Competition.
In previous competitions, we have seen exceptional displays of talents, creativity and humor from Canadian students.
Their language proficiency shocked and amazed the audience.
I don’t want to give you any pressure, but I expect great things from you all.
Before you, one Canadian completed the mission impossible.
His name is Mark Rowswell, a.k.a. “Dashan” in China.
After years of study, Mark now speaks better Chinese than many Chinese. (Laughter.)
He’s become a household name in China as a performer, language educator and TV host.
But more importantly, Mark is an active cultural ambassador between China and Canada.
I hope from among you there will be more Mark Rowswells.
I am sure, that like him, you will contribute a unique share to our two countries’ friendship and partnership.
Finally, I wish you the best of luck in your studies and all your future endeavors.
With that, I am happy to answer any questions you might have.