Chinese talents from 51Talk will bring charm of traditional culture to U.K.

September 06 23:24 2019

Eight students from 51Talk, a leading Beijing-based online English education platform, take part in the final of the China Youth Talks, an English speech competition held at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge University on Sept. 5. [Photo provided to Reuters]

“Cultural and educational exchanges, particularly people-to-people exchanges, play a vital role in moving forward China-U.K. relations, and I am impressed by these Chinese students’ amazing performance,” Dr. Holly Kennard, of Oxford University, said in an interview on Thursday.

The remarks come after the final of the China Youth Talks, an English speech competition held at Cambridge University on Sept. 5. The contest, in response to China’s national call for “fostering the younger generation for the great rejuvenation of China”, sets out to enhance Chinese youths’ knowledge of their intangible cultural heritage.

Dr. Kennard reiterated her take on the contest, saying, “Cultural exchanges can move the two countries steadily forward.”

The competition was co-organized by the Central Committee of China’s Communist Youth League and 51Talk, a leading Beijing-based online English education platform.

According to the organizers, the final consisted of eight semi-finalists who were chosen from thousands of candidates nationwide. They each acted as 51Talk ambassadors as they helped to promote bilateral cultural exchanges and bring some vitality to traditional Chinese culture.

In addition to the speech contest, the eight candidates also enjoyed an eight-day tour of England, which included a visit to both Cambridge and Oxford universities, a day at the British Museum and the London City Hall, and activities that aimed to promote the essence of Chinese culture to British students.

Groundbreaking Program for Teens

“China has enjoyed an extensive and profound culture since ancient times. Quite a few foreigners actually have a strong interest in knowing oriental culture, but they just lack the channels to learn more,” said Shan Sheng, co-founder of the UK Research and Development Centre for Chinese Traditional Culture (UKCTC).

Founded in 2011, UKCTC is a private non-profit research institution based in London, with a view to introducing Chinese fine culture to the U.K and to educating those who may not understand Chinese cultural traditions. At the invitation of Sheng, the eight contestants paid a visit to UKCTC on Sept. 1 and had a memorable time with their British peers.

“We hope to enhance the communication between Chinese and British students through the program, so more can be learnt about Chinese culture and its rapid development,” Sheng said.

9-year-old Xu Xuanyu, one of the eight contestants, wowed the audience at UKCTC with a brilliant guqin performance. Guqin, also known as a seven-stringed lyre, is one of China’s oldest plucked string instruments.

“I used to be fond of playing piano but now I am also interested in this traditional Chinese instrument,” she said, “When I played quqin on the stage, many British friends were amazed by the refined and delicate sound it gives off.”

“Students have benefited a lot from the experience, which may lay a sound foundation for people-to-people exchanges in the near future,” Shan remarked.

Language Learning Brings Understandings

As China is one of the U.K.’s main trading partners, culture exchanges are not the only secret weapon to promote bilateral relations. Learning Chinese has become increasingly popular throughout the U.K. as a means of bridging cultural divides.

According to statistics from the Education Section of the Chinese Embassy in the U.K., the U.K. has established 29 Confucius institutes nationwide, with more than 160,000 students registered to learn the Chinese language.

China’s Xinhua News Agency also reported in April that studying in China has become a popular choice among the British younger generation. Likewise, speaking fluent English has always been a worthy pursuit for Chinese students.

As China has gained momentum in e-business development, China’s online English learning industry has witnessed an explosive growth in recent years. 51Talk has capitalized on this growth and become a pioneer of the industry since its establishment in 2011.

“Learning each other’s language is an effective way to bridge people together to reduce misunderstandings and to bridge respect between people from different cultures,” said Huang Jiajia, CEO and founder of 51Talk.

Listed in the New York Stock Exchange on June 10, 2016, 51Talk has been committed to ensuring every Chinese learner’s right to talk to the world.

“Sending these students to the U.K. is the latest example of fulfilling our promise. 51Talk is willing to help learners enrich their vision through the eight-day U.K. tour,” the 34-year-old founder added.

“At 51Talk, we are also eager to work with our U.K. counterparts to develop and grow many fantastic educational exchanges,” Huang said.

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