Greeks follow global trend in the ‘language of the future’

Vassiliki Papatheologou, 21, has been learning what many consider to be the language of the future, for almost three years at the Greece-China League. Last Saturday, she took the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK), the Chinese Proficiency Test, along with another 44 Greeks at the Athens Concert Hall. The HSK has been certified by the Chinese Education Ministry and the National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. The second Panhellenic test for the HSK was organized under the auspices of the Chinese Embassy in Athens and the Greece-China League. The Greece-China League conducts lessons in Mandarin as does the Athens University Club. And, as the league’s vice president, Amalia Matiatou, said, «pupils who do very well and can use the language are given an opportunity to offer their services, subject to approval by the authorities, at the Olympic Games in Beijing next August as volunteers or at events for the Cultural Year of Greece in China.» Papatheologou, who is doing the second year of a course in international and European Studies, found out about the lessons purely by chance. Last August she went to China for a month on an educational trip organized by the league to attend lessons at Beijing University. Her interest in the language came from her reading, China’s rich culture and the fact that the country is developing so fast. «I was impressed by their history,» she told Kathimerini a few days before the exams, for which she had done her final revision. Greeks say that something is «Chinese» when it isn’t easy to understand or read. So what is it like to learn the language? «Very different,» she explained, «because you have to memorize ideograms and pay attention to pronunciation and tones. It’s a different philosophy. The same word can mean four different things, depending on the tone.» The HSK was designed by the Beijing University of Linguistics and Culture in 1984. Exams have been held internationally since 1991, in 87 cities in 35 countries. By last December, an estimated 1.3 million people had taken the exam, a number expected to rise to 100 million by 2020. Last year the exam was restructured to include an oral test and an essay. The new version of the test will be fully available in 2008. Info: Greece-China League, 25 Nikis St, tel 210.364.6260-1, [email protected]