DEEPLY ATTRACTED: Students in the International Kazakhstan-China Language School are having a Chinese class (YANG JIA)
The International Kazakhstan-China Language School is located in the downtown area of Almaty, the economic and cultural center of Kazakhstan. The school was founded in 2007 by Talgat Mamyruly and his wife, who migrated from China to Kazakhstan in 1993. Mamyruly has now become a well-known entrepreneur in Kazakhstan.
At present the school has an enrollment of approximately 300 students. With Chinese and English as its basic courses, the school now has four majors: translation/interpretation, linguistics, tourism and clothes design.
The school has been matched with International House London, an established and well-known language school in Britain and China's Xinjiang Normal University. Mamyruly said his aim was to build the school into a first-rate language institution with an enrollment of 5,000 in the near future.
Among the students in a first-year translation and interpretation class, about one third will go to China's Chongqing Jiaotong University, and two thirds to a Guangzhou-based vocational school for overseas Chinese for advanced studies.
"Studying two to four years here after graduating from junior high school, the students will have a good command of Chinese in terms of reading, speaking and writing abilities," said Mamyruly. "It will be very helpful when they attend Chinese universities."
Aijan, a 16-year-old student at the school, has aspirations of becoming an interpreter. She has just learned to sing an aria from The Legend of the Red Lantern, a well-known play of modern Peking Opera. "It's very hard to learn opera singing and acting. However, its melodies are so pleasant and beautiful, I like it very much," she said with a shy smile.
Almost every language teacher here has experienced living and working in China previously, which is the biggest advantage of the newly built school. In the past couple of years it achieved remarkable success in Chinese teaching. Last year its students did superbly in various Chinese knowledge and language contests and Chinese art performances held in Almaty, winning widespread acclaim.
In order to arouse students' enthusiasm for Chinese language, teachers in the school have invented a variety of teaching methods including singing Chinese songs, dancing the yangge—a popular rural folk dance in China, learning Chinese tongue twisters, reciting ancient Chinese poems, and practicing taiji. At the end of 2009, five students of the school, representing Kazakhstan, staged a traditional fan dance at the Confucius Institutes in Beijing.
With a rising number of young people learning Chinese, Kazakhstan is experiencing "Chinese fever." As a result, courses in Chinese have been offered in almost every public or private university in the country.
Despite financial and other difficulties, Mamyruly is rather confident about the future of his school. He intends to set up a Confucius Classroom with the aid of the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing and he is preparing to open a primary school focusing on Chinese teaching.
"We must pay special attention to the language education of children today. In this way we'll probably have more qualified interpreters and translators tomorrow," he said.
Mamyruly's wife Farida Merhamitkyzy is the president and chief designer of a garment firm, which is also the main investor in the International Kazakhstan-China Language School.