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Interview with Mr Xu Xinyu, Co-director of Confucius Institute at University of Mazandaran

From mid-April, University of Mazandaran has been hosting Professor Xinyu Xu from Guangzhou University. Those who have been following the news about the establishment of Confucius Institute at UMZ know that Mr. Xinyu Xu is currently the Chinese co-director of CI at UMZ. He will stay in Babolsar for two years overseeing the management of classes when they start in late September this year.

 To know more about Confucius Institute and its activities, the Office of International and Scientific Cooperation (OISC) conducted an interview with him. Since asking questions is the most powerful way to get to know someone we asked him some of the most probable questions that UMZ students might want us to ask him! OISC invites you to read the full interview below:












Q: How are you today?

Fine! Thank you for holding this interview.

Q: First, I would like to ask you to tell us about yourself.

My Chinese name is Xu Xinyu, and many of you find it difficult to pronounce the sound Xu, so you can use my English name Brian which might be easier for you. My major is English and literature, and I have been a college English teacher for 33 years at two universities in China____Wuhan University (1986-1997) and Guangzhou University (1997- ). My students have been non-English majors, and the courses that I have been teaching include College English and English Idioms and Culture. Before I came to Iran, I was Vice-dean of School of Foreign Studies at Guangzhou University. I am happy to work here at Confucius Institute co-established by University of Mazandaran and Guangzhou University.

Q: You are here as the co-director of Confucius Institute, could you give us some information about it? Why is it called with this name and when was it established? What purpose does it pursue? What were its greatest achievements since its inception?

Confucius was an educator and philosopher in ancient China. He was the founder of Confucianism, and many of his thoughts have had great influence on Chinese people for more than 2000 years. He is a symbol or logo of Chinese culture and his name has become an entry in English dictionaries. That’s the reason we have Confucius Institute as the name, to show our respect for this famous Chinese educator and philosopher as well as try to make contributions in Chinese language teaching and cultural exchanges.

Confucius Institute is a non-profit educational organization sponsored by Confucius Institute Headquarters/Hanban in Beijing. The first Confucius Institute was established in South Korea in 2004.

The main purpose of Confucius Institute is to help foreigners learn Chinese language, make cultural exchanges and develop academic exchanges among universities all over the world.

Every year in China Hanban hosts a Chinese language speech contest called Chinese Bridge, which attracts thousands of Chinese language learners from all over the world to participate in the preliminary contests and finals in different countries and regions, and then dozens of top winners are invited and sponsored to go to China to attend the big Final Contest. As far as I know, many young people have obtained a high level of oral and written proficiency in Chinese language so that they can further their studies in different universities in China or find good jobs related to Chinese language inside or outside of China. Of course, the world has also got a better understanding of the true China with the help of friends who know Chinese language and its culture from different countries.   

Q: How many branches does it have?

By the end of 2018, 548 Confucius Institutes had been co-established by different Chinese universities with different universities from 147 countries and regions. In Iran there are two Confucius Institutes now. One is here, and the other is at University of Tehran.

Q: Tell us a bit about the ups and downs of establishing CI in UMZ.

Sorry I am not able to answer this question, because I didn’t participate in the preparation of establishing CI until Nov. 2018. Maybe Dr. Azizi who is the co-director of the Confucius Institute here at UMZ can answer this question.

Q: Chinese language learning courses will be held in a few months; could you possibly give us some information about these courses?

As far as I know, the students who have registered in Chinese language courses are almost all beginners, so we will start from the very beginning Level 1. We will divide the students into 3 groups, and each group is supposed to meet the language teacher 3 times a week (1.5 hours each time). The course lasts 12 weeks in each semester, and after level 1, we will have level 2, level 3 and level 4 in different semesters respectively. So, at least two years will be spent in order to get familiar with Chinese language gradually in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Of course, in each class the teacher will work hard to focus on the training of the four basic skills in language learning. 

Q: How about course materials?

Teaching materials are very important for language learners, so the teacher will collect some materials in point and offer hand-outs to the students. We also have some electronic materials and VCDs or MP 3 materials for the students to practice   listening and speaking. Hanban will send us some books and we’ll have a reference room so that students and teachers can get help from it.

Q: How about the exams? Is there any sorts of exams students should take before or after finishing the course?

Since the students are beginners in Chinese language learning, we don’t plan to give them any test before class, but we will definitely test them during and after the course in each semester to promote and check their language learning.

Q: What happens when the learners successfully pass the final exam? Will the institute give them valid certificates?

As for valid certificates, we don’t have any on the basis of University of Mazandaran, but after one year’s study, students can start to take HSK (Chinese Language Test) from level 1 to level 6 and get valid certificates if they pass the test.

Q: Do you have any specific expectations for those who want to attend CI courses?

Any foreign language can be difficult to learn for a beginner. Chinese language is the same. Despite a completely different sound and form systems, Chinese language has some regular rules to help learners pronounce sounds, remember vocabulary as well as understand, speak and write correct sentences.

Therefore, I hope everyone can learn the language through thinking____ thinking about the rules of Chinese character structures, sentence patterns and language contexts which are closely connected with the various meanings of each single character.

Q: You may have some advice to the Iranian learners of Chinese language. What are your most important pieces of advice that you believe they must know?

I would like to use three words as recommendations.

Advice 1: Confidence. It is true that many people regard Chinese language as one of the most difficult foreign languages to learn, but it is also true that many foreigners speak very good Chinese, in speech contests, on TV or on Campuses of Chinese universities. As long as you have confidence, you will try to spend time and efforts to learn the language because everyone has the potential to learn a foreign language and master it.

Advice 2: Curiosity. Chinese language is quite different from Persian language, but how? Then you need curiosity. Try to find and compare the differences, and you can find many rules and methods in learning the language.

Advice 3: Perseverance. Learning a foreign language needs time and patience. When you face difficulties, don’t give up. When the progress is small, don’t get worried. Chinese language consists of a core vocabulary of about 3000 and even more sentences, we need to master them step by step.

Q: How do you see the future of CI at University of Mazandaran??

I am very happy that I met and talked with some students who are eager to learn Chinese language here. As long as there is such a demand from students, Confucius Institute at University of Mazandaran will have a bright future. If more students register to learn Chinese, we can apply to Hanban to send more Chinese teachers here. The institute can be also a bridge to improve the student and teacher exchanges between UMZ and Guangzhou University.

Q: Enough with the formal questions! Have you ever been to Iran before? If not, can we ask you to tell us about your first impression about Iran?

This is the first time that I have been in Iran, but I have had some ideas about the country ever since my childhood. When I was a child, I often heard people talk about Persian cat, Persian carpet, Persian Gulf, Persian Empire (of course in Chinese), and I learned from history books that Iran is a country with a long history and a great civilization. But to be honest, I didn’t have much idea about the cities, people and life here.

Before I came to Iran, many people around me showed much worry(because they have never stepped on the land of Iran), but some friends who have travelled to Iran encouraged me to come and have a look at this country with great civilization and many places of interest. Seeing is believing. I find people are so friendly, environment is so clean and places are so safe! Therefore, I often tell what I see to my friends and also encourage them to come and have a look.

Q: Probably the most photographed and the loveliest place in Babolsar is its beautiful shores; do you also think so? Could you go sightseeing?

I quite agree. On the first day I came to Babolsar, I took a walk along the seashore. On that day, it was still a little bit cold, so there were not many people there. I walked on the beach and found the sea water and the sand very clean. In the following weeks, I often walked along the seashore and found more and more people began to enjoy the sunshine and other entertainment there since it becomes warmer and warmer.

I also notice the river beside the university headquarters is very beautiful, especially the orange trees and different flowers along the river. If I am not in a hurry, I often walk from the university campus back to my apartment, smelling the flowers and appreciating the scenery. I am sure I can find many other beautiful places when I walk to other parts of this city.

Q:What cultural similarities do you see between Iran and China??

In spite of cultural differences, I have noticed some similarities between Iranian and Chinese culture.

First, both people are very warm-hearted and friendly. Even I am a stranger, many people would like to say hello to me in the street.

Second, both people like to pursue beauty in the nature. For example, I can find a lot of trees and flowers along the streets here. You know, Guangzhou, the city where I come from, has another name City of Flowers. We also like to plant various flowers along the streets and we have flowers all the year round because Guangzhou is in the warm south.

Third, both countries have a long history of great civilization, and people show great respect for the traditional arts, literature, philosophers in the history in their countries. Fourthly, we share the tea culture even though we have different methods of making tea. Finally, we share the custom of planting and consuming rice. It makes me feel at home!

14. What do you think about Iranian cuisine? Do you have any preferences? Have you gotten used to them?

I think the food here is quite different from Chinese food. I notice that Iranian cuisine contains a lot of sour food, but in China we have a lot of sweet or spicy food. Maybe I have a different stomach, so I don’t have any preference for sweet or spicy food, therefore, it is easy for me to get used to Iranian food here soon. I like many kinds of food here, especially the rice, yoghurt, pickled cucumber, kebab, fish, carrots, oranges, etc. I also would like to recommend Iranian food to my Chinese friends when they come to Iran.

Q: Thank you Mr XU, Anything else you want to add??

No. Thank you. But I’d like to answer questions from you and your schoolmates whenever you have any.

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