Foreign Director of Confucius Institute at University of Latvia: Number of Chinese Teaching Sites Amounts to 9 in Latvia

[Source] [Time]    2018-01-05 09:04:41 

“Welcome to the Confucius Institute at University of Latvia!” Recently, the Confucius Institute at the University of Latvia, co-established by South China Normal University (hereinafter referred to as “Huashi”) and the University of Latvia, recruited a new batch of student volunteers, who will fly to Latvia to teach Chinese and Chinese culture in the summer holiday of 2018.

In their first meeting, 79-year-old Peteris Pildegovics, Foreign Director of the Confucius Institute at University of Latvia, surprised the students with his excellent Chinese. Among the first batch of Latvian diplomats to China and Latvian Sinologists, Mr. Pildegovics, who once worked as a journalist of Xinhua News Agency, has an intimate understanding of Chinese agriculture, medicine, economy, livelihood, etc. After 8 years of hard work, his monumental work, the first Chinese-Latvian Dictionary, was awarded the “Special Book Award of China” in 2016. With his in-depth knowledge, he shaped a cultural path to the friendly relationship between China and Latvia under the vision of the “Belt and Road” initiative.

The number of Chinese teaching bases in Latvia ranks first among the three Baltic States

“I first knew China in 1949.” Pildegovics recalled. On October 1st, 1949, when he was 11 years old, his father held a newspaper with a new version of the world map in it and, introduced to him that: “From that day on, a new country had been founded, namely, the People’s Republic of China”. He had never thought that, in the latter half of that century, he would develop such a close relationship with it. “Since then, I fell in love with China. China is my second hometown”.

In 1964, driven by a strong desire for the Chinese culture, Pildegovics learned Chinese in the School of Oriental languages (today’s Institute of Asian and African Studies) at Moscow University. “At that time, most of the Chinese oral teachers were from north China, and their wonderful pronunciation was of great help for me.” He suggested that, learning Chinese was not merely about learning Chinese characters, but also about learning Chinese history and culture, and about following China’s latest development. Pildegovics likes reading classical Chinese literature, such as A Dream of Red Mansions and Heroes of the Marshes. He also likes reading modern Chinese literature, including those written by famous writers like Lu Xun and Wang Meng. Until now, he still reads newspapers every day to catch up China’s latest development. “Among China’s ‘new Four Great Inventions’, shared bikes are the most convenient means of transportation at present,” said Pildegovics with smiles.

Speaking of teaching Chinese in Latvia, Pildegovics said, I felt a strong comparison. When I studied Chinese, I had to travel a long distance to Moscow. But now, I am pleased to see that the number of Chinese teaching bases in Latvia ranks first among the three Baltic States”. In 2011, China authorized relevant institutes in Latvia to establish local organizations for Chinese teaching and Chinese culture studies. In this sense, through cooperation between Huashi and the University of Latvia, Pildegovics was invited to engage in the establishment of the first Confucius Institute in Latvia. 6 years have passed, and Latvia, with a population of 2 million, is home to 9 Chinese teaching bases and 4 Confucius classrooms.

Having already realized that favorable atmosphere was of great significance for language learning, Pildegovics equipped students in different grades with tailored textbooks, and advocated that newspapers should be part of Chinese teaching to follow China’s development while enriching their vocabularies. Meanwhile, he also actively engaged Chinese learners in Latvia to go to Chinese cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou, in a bid to have a field experience of Chinese culture.

8 years of hard work embodied in the compilation of the Chinese-Latvian Dictionary

For a long time, Latvian students had no specific Latvian-Chinese dictionaries when they learned Chinese. Instead, they had to “learn Chinese through indirect path”, using Chinese-Russian dictionaries or Chinese-English dictionaries before they made second translation from Russian or English into Latvian, which was neither a convenient nor accurate method for learning. In 2011, the Chinese-Latvian Dictionary, complied by Pildegovics and published by China Commercial Press, made its debut, freeing Latvian students from the hassle. For this, Pildegovics was awarded “Special Book Award of China” by the Chinese government, and received the Three-star Medal, the highest reputation conferred by the Latvian government.

The 1000-page dictionary is the result of over 2,000 days of hard work from Pildegovics and his wife. In the past 8 years, he served as both a Chinese teacher and a dictionary compiler. Pildegovics and his wife devoted 5 to 6 hours every day in the translation of Chinese phrases. In this process, the true challenge for this “China hand” was the translation of Chinese idioms. Pildegovics said, “Some Chinese idioms differ greatly with Latvian traditional culture in terms of their background and meaning. For example, when it comes to Zhu Geliang, the Chinese people could understand this name easily. However, when I translated the name into Latvian, I had to append the information of his background, and the reason why he enjoyed such a high reputation in China”.

79-year-old Pildegovics is working on several programs. He noted, “I am trying my best to unveil the electronic version of Chinese-Latvian Dictionary, in an attempt to make it easier for the youngsters to refer to. Additionally, I plan to use my mother tongue to write a biography, telling my stories of the past 50-plus years. I will not be a retired veteran cadre playing mahjong every day, but instead, I will commit to the cultural exchanges between Latvia and China.”

(Story by Journalist Yao Yao, Intern Journalist Huang Qianxin, Correspondents Li Yuhong and Yang Liuqing,