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The charm of minor languages: SSAS Dean of Yunnan Minzu University

Updated:2017-03-07 17:02:57   yunnangateway.com

--An interview with Lu Sheng, Dean of the School of Southeast Asian Studies (SSAS), Yunnan Minzu University

Yunnan Minzu University.

"Language is a cornerstone for human civilization," and this is a classical line in the film Arrival. Actually, language is a tool of communication, a medium of culture and a signature of civilization. Of all the languages, the ones used by the ASEAN nations are of distinctive features. Recently, Yunnan Gateway reporters interviewed Lu Sheng, Dean of the School of Southeast Asia Studies, Yunnan Minzu University. He shared his stories concerning the minor languages or Southeast Asian languages.

Lu lectures in a classroom.

Can’t help falling in love with linguistics

"My life cannot be copied." Lu used the simple words to sum up the chances and coincidences via which he entered the field of Southeast Asia language studies.

Having participated in Gaokao (China’s National College Entrance Examination) in 1980, Lu was admitted to the Xishuangbanna Teachers School to pursue a junior college degree. After graduation, Lu became a physics teacher in a township in Mengla County, but he was not satisfied with his life there because he was prospecting better things in his future. "At that time, my dream was to be a physics teacher at No. 1 Middle School of Mengla County, where a bachelor's degree was needed. In 1985, I attended the Gaokao once more with the purpose of entering the physics department of Yunnan Minzu University. Unexpectedly, I was admitted to the Thai language program of the minor languages department." This admission marked the turning point in Lu’s life.

While learning the Thai language, Lu realized that linguistics is a large and charming discipline. After getting his Bachelor Degree, Lu continued Thai language study at the graduate school of the university. "We did not have specific textbooks then, mostly we just discussed with the mentors around their studies." Recalling his graduate days, Lu said the thick academic air contributed a lot to his career development as a minor language teacher.

Thai princess Sirindhorn grants degrees to Thai language majors in the University. 

"During my teaching career, I visited the Thai Chulalongkorn University and stayed there for one year. Then I was admitted to the Thai Burapha University to pursuit my doctoral degree," said Lu. Thanks to his rich experience in language learning, Lu effectively finished his dissertation, bringing his doctoral study to an end. Based on his dissertation, he compiled some Thai language teaching materials, laying a theoretical foundation for the study of Thai language teaching.

When it came to teaching materials, Lu remembered something interesting and unforgettable. "Most of the Tai language majors in the university want to work in Thailand, but several years ago some students told me that the Thai language learnt in the school can hardly be used in real situations in Thailand." Lu thought hard about the deep reason behind the problem, and he realized that the language the students learned was far from practical. Lu decided to compile textbooks by himself. Based on his learning experience in Thailand, he selected the most practical expressions for classroom teaching. "Are the topics in the textbook related to real situations, such as shopping, telephone conversation and eating?" Lu questioned himself repeatedly when compiling his comprehensive Thai language course book for college students. In his course book, the restaurant names, the menus and traveling routes can be seen frequently, and even non Thai-language majors can be interested in it.

Thai language course books for college students. Photo by Ren Jie

Keyword:   charm languages Dean Yunnan
Editor: 王世学