The demand to study Sinhala language in China is rapidly increasing with advancing economic ties between China and Sri Lanka, Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) President Professor Long Peng said. “We like to send Chinese students to Sri Lanka to have a better experience as it will expand their knowledge in many ways. We welcome Sri Lankan students to China. It is beneficial for a country to send students to other countries to increase their experience and knowledge,” Professor Lung said.
This university where Sinhala language is taught to Chinese students is now getting a high demand for Sinhala degree courses, he added.
“The relationship between China and Sri Lanka is growing speedily today. The economic agreements and other social, cultural ties which are being increased between the two countries have encouraged Chinese people to learn Sinhala for better communication,” the Professor said.
Professor Long who visited Sri Lanka as a member of the delegation of the Chinese President Xi Jinping, made these comments in an exclusive interview to the Daily News, on the Sinhala language degree programs offered for Chinese students at BFSU, China.
He said the main reason for the people in China to see the importance of the knowledge of the Sinhala language is the increase of Chinese investments and business groups in Sri Lanka due to the initiatives taken by both governments to improve Chinese investments in Sri Lanka.
“Along with these initiatives, China requires Sinhala speaking Chinese for better understanding of Sri Lankan political, economic, social and cultural background,” he said.
Professor Long said Sri Lanka has given high priority for education, through the facilities extended to students at every level of society.
“In my opinion, Sri Lanka is the best in Asia in facilities and assistance given to the students. Providing the children free education is a good measure taken by the Sri Lankan government for the improvement of education in the country,” he said. “Here, students are provided school uniform material, text books and even lunch during their time at the school which encourage children to attend school. Even China doesn’t provide such facilities to schoolchildren,” the professor said.
“China is glad that President Rajapaksa is developing the country after ending terrorism. The priority he has given for the development of education will fully assist the development drive of Sri Lanka as the country will produce a well-educated generation. Hence the country will move to a wonderful future,” Professor Lung said.
The BFSU established in 1941, offering degree courses for foreign languages started Sinhala language programs in 1961. It offers BA Special Degrees and MA Degrees in Sinhala.
“The university has facilities for PhD programs in Sinhala as well. If there is a request for such a program, we can offer it,” Prof. Lung said. The BFSU since its establishment has produced over 600 ambassadors and over 1,000 senior officers in foreign affairs all over the world, including Sri Lankans. It is now teaching 74 foreign languages, which includes European, Asian and African languages. “Our university is the place where the highest number of foreign languages is taught in China,” the professor explained.
“We are pleased to offer Sinhala language at our university as we enjoy the relationships between China and Sri Lanka which has been continuing for a long time. The two countries have been retaining social, economic, political and cultural relations especially since China and Sri Lanka established diplomatic relations in 1957. We like this relationship to be more strengthened in every way,” Professor Lung said.
“In line with that, the BFSU signed a MoU with the Colombo University to establish a China-Sri Lanka Study Centre in Sri Lanka. In addition, we signed another MoU with the Colombo University to establish a Confucius Institution in Sri Lanka which will enhance the mutual understanding of Sri Lankans about Chinese, through the knowledge of the social and ethical thinking among Chinese, enriched by Confucianism,” he said. “Additionally, we will start a joint degree program with the University of Colombo, offering scholarships for academic excellence, with the aim of enhancing the relationship between the two countries. We will help train Sri Lankan Public Administration Officers in China in coordination with Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA), Sri Lanka,” he said. “There are facilities for Sri Lankan students to learn Chinese language at BFSU. Those measures will further expand the opportunity for both regions to know more about each other,” the Professor said. President Mahinda Rajapaksa opened the ‘Sri Lanka Study Centre’ at BFSU during his state visit in 2011, making a milestone in China-Sri Lanka relations. President Rajapaksa was also awarded with an honorary doctorate in Philosophy which is only offered at BFSU, Professor Long said.