HSE and Association for Development of Sinology Became Partners!
An interview with Alena Pavlova, the president of the Association for Development of Sinology about Russian-Chinese cultural coneections development perspectives, the level of Chinese needed to acquire a job in China and possiblities for HSE students within an internship in the Association.
On February 5, 2018, a non-profit non-governmental association of sinologists "Association for the Development of Sinology" (hereinafter referred to as the Association) was founded in Russia. Despite its recent appearance, the Association has already managed to make its own contribution to the development of Sinology and unite specialists in Sinology not only from entire Russia, but from other countries as well. In 2020, the Association became a partner of the HSE, and HSE students had the opportunity to pass an internship, participate in organizing events and learn more about new trends in oriental studies. The 2nd year student of the programme ‘Business and Politics in Modern Asia’ Julia Kutepova asked a few questions to the President of the Association - Alena Pavlova.
– Alena Dmitrievna, could you please tell us a few words about your background and how your life is connected to China?
– I am a teacher of the Chinese language, linguist and president of the Association for the Development of Sinology. I got in touch with China and Chinese language 20 years ago. At first, it had been a hobby, and then I had prepared seriously and entered University already having passed the Chinese language entrance exam. I graduated from Moscow State Pedagogical University, trained in China, worked as a translator. Later I entered postgraduate studies and at the same time began to work in several Moscow universities as a teacher of Chinese language. Since 2014, I also began teaching at the Russian Defense Ministry's Boarding School as a teacher of Chinese language.
– You are a member of the European Association of Chinese Studies (EACS), The Association for Asian Studies (AAS), The Chinese Language Teachers Association (CLTA) etc. How did you come to the decision to create the Association for the Development of Sinology?
– We all sometimes lack one impetus to move from reflection to action. For me, this push occurred in 2017 during one of the international conferences that was held abroad. Abroad conferences, as a rule, are held by various associations. During these conferences, you could feel the spirit of professional community, support of each other, unity and mutual assistance, openness and incredible activity. I had never felt it in our country. However, I would like to have and feel it in Russia. Later I discussed this idea with colleagues, they supported me and then we just had to start working.
– What are the main goals of the Association? Is it possible to become its member?
– All the goals of the Association are mentioned in the charter, but in brief, these are the unification of the Russian Sinological community, the development and popularization of Russian Sinology. We would like Russian specialists to communicate more with each other, to participate more in foreign conferences, because no one except ourselves will tell about the development of Sinology in Russia. It is our task to develop and promote it, as our famous and unknown compatriots were doing for hundreds of years before us. We try to create projects that would help our professionals in their work, and those that would help the society to see our professionals.Everyone can contribute as much as they can. Therefore, yes, you can become a member of the Association. The main demand is your desire to work.
– What is the potential of Association for the Development of Sinology? Could you please tell us about some interesting projects?
– This year, according to the plan, our Association began to expand through online events (the pandemic contributed to us to a certain extent). Before the pandemic, we planned only one online project this year – “Open Microphone. Conversations”, but then we transformed all the events until the end of the year in online format.
– As for the interesting projects, on August 8, Doctor of Law and Philosophy Harro von Senger, a renowned scientist, honored us and held the first in the series Scientific and Practical Seminar on Chinese Law. These are regular seminars conducted by specialists and practitioners at our site.
– On August 10-17, we had the first “Open Online Dialogue”; it was the eighth dialogue in the series, which had become the Dialect Festival. It was a full-fledged international event, which lasted 8 days; every day was concerned with the new group of dialects. We provide lectures, interesting materials, quizzes and much more. This multi-format event was held simultaneously at all sites of the Association. We also launched a calendar of international conferences; we are working on databases of sinologists, a database of sinological dissertations, and so on.
– What are the prospects for the development of cultural relations between Russia and China?
– We are neighbors with China, so there is always a need in specialists. Now this tendency will be even more active than before. You need to take into account global trends, the independent development of each of the countries at the same time in order to choose promising directions. After the pandemic, many things will change. For example, our Association have already requested the opportunity from some universities to study PhD remotely; we also helped one Chinese university to conduct an online professional development course for Russian teachers, who teach Chinese language. In addition, we hope that our cooperation both at a high state level, and the practice-oriented one for specific tasks will continue to develop in the period after the pandemic. It is very important for interaction to precede at all possible levels, so it becomes much stronger, new opportunities appear for all participants in the process.
– What do you think about the news that the HSK International Chinese Language Exam will be reformed and three new levels will be introduced? How do you think, which HSK level is enough to find a well-paid job connected with China?
– When we switched from the old system of 11 levels to the current one with 6 ones, it was a bit sad. The more levels the more incentives for self-improvement. The most important is that the requirements for the levels should be well written and understandable. The minimum level now depends on whom you are going to work with or where you want to work. To help you in everyday matters, the HSK 4th level should be enough. But this does not mean that you? For example, can easily solve the problem with the card in the bank. If you work as a foreign specialist, for a number of professions you may not need it at all, because there are other professional qualities you will be hire for.
– What do you need to be prepared for when you start learning Chinese? What advice would you give to those who are already committed to the Chinese language?
– You need to be ready to work hard, constantly improve yourself, and not just simply prepare for classes. Chinese is very interesting, but also very difficult. I think the main difficulty is to develop a diligent attitude towards learning. You need to be greedy for new knowledge. If you have already chosen Chinese, then read literature about the country, culture, history. This will help in language learning. Go to events or participate online, ask questions, meet Chinese people, because language is primarily about communication.
– What opportunities does the Association provide for the career development of students?
– We have a volunteer movement. We accept students from any university as long as they study Chinese. They help organize our events and partner events, participate in events on behalf of Association. This is a very good opportunity to meet those with whom it is not easy to get to know, listen to leading Sinologists, be in a Sinology "get-together", find a place to study, work or scientific advisor. It gives an idea of how you can be realized in this area.
– Over the past year, we have received many vacancies, including for students. Therefore, we started to create a database separately for students. You can already get into it by sending an application on our website. It will soon be released to the public. Thus, we want companies and future specialists to find each other faster.
– Russia has become the 10th biggest country in the world in terms of online language learning, with English and Chinese growing the most. Why Chinese language is becoming more and more widespread in Russia?
– On the one hand, this is a fashionable trend. On the other hand, China is a very rapidly developing country. Now it is already obvious to everyone. Of course, many people want to try to get the advantage of speaking Chinese for different purposes.
– Chinese is also a certain symbol in the minds of many people, inconceivably interesting, but difficult. In addition, when you start to master it, it is growth over yourself. I often tell my students, and myself, when I meet something difficult: “You speak Chinese, is it really harder than learnt thousands of characters?!” As a rule, no. Moreover, everything doesn't seem so complicated anymore.
– Do you think two peoples (Chinese and Russian) have become closer and more tolerant culturally after the Russian-Chinese relations reached such a high level?
– I think it's closer, but not much more bearable. Compared to a similar rise after 1949. We don't have as many positive contacts as we would like. But stimulation in this matter is dangerous, a natural process must take place. We are culturally different, and here we do not need to specifically look for some kind of rapprochement, we just need to learn to accept each other as they are and respect the right to a different point of view. Learn more about each other. The more I study China, the better I understand our indigenous culture. Our peculiarities of mentality, upbringing is formed at the junction of Europe and Asia. This is our great advantage. Therefore, for us, studying Asia is like discovering and comprehending ourselves.
– How do you think, what can be the prospects of the HSE-Association for the Development of Sinology cooperation?
– The HSE students had the opportunity to undergo internship at the first online “Open dialogue”. This is a unique experience in organizing events with international participation in an online format. This is not only communication with native speakers in Chinese, but the real work of the organizer, from conceptual design to implementation, where they are fully responsible for the process at almost every stage, while most of the work involves using Chinese as a working language. This includes acquaintance with modern technologies for holding events in the online format, and working with people, with programs. And most importantly it is about new acquaintances, contacts and connections.
We thank Julia Kutepova for conducting the interview.