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Why Do I Want to Learn Chinese

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  I was born in France. I am French. My first name is Jeanne, the same name as French heroine Jeanne d’Arc. But my surname is Wang, because my parents are Chinese. With this name of dual nature, my story begins.
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  Since I was a child, my parents always wanted me to become more French than the French. So, when I was small, I didn’t feel that there was any difference between me and other French children. But when I went to school, my teacher told other pupils in the class in my presence that I was“Asian”, though I didn’t even know the meaning of this word. What I did know was that I liked words, phrases and literature and loved reading all kinds of books from fairy tales to the works written by Moliere, Jean Racine, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Honore de Balzac, Victor Hugo, Albert Camus, and many others. When I was at high school, I took the preparatory class for the teachers’ qualification examination. After graduation, naturally I became a French teacher. I taught in Paris and at the same time worked on my treatise. Everything went on following the prescribed order.
  Then, fate knocked at my door. An Auvergne man took me to FrancheComte Region where I came into contact with China, the place of my ancestry. When I lived there, the University of Auvergne and later the Confucius Institute invited me to teach Chinese. But then, things happened: I was caught in an explosion, and later I was pregnant and gave birth to a child. All this left me little time to study Chinese and I was not yet ready to open this door.
  I spent my childhood in a Chinese atmosphere. Both my father and mother were sinologists. My father taught Chinese language and culture in university, and my mother worked with French sinologists. Such renowned sinologists as Jacques Gernet and Pierre Dieny were often invited to our home. They talked about Chinese literature while enjoying the delicious Chinese food prepared by my parents. I often heard such names as Confucius, Du Fu, Wang Wei, etc. But, at that time my parents wanted me to pursue a career in other fields.
  My “awakening” did not come until I had my daughter Eva. The little girl suddenly became interested in Chi- nese when she heard her grandparents speaking it. Eve is the first woman in the Bible. Eva is pronounced as ai hua in Chinese, which means love China. She really developed a great interest in Chinese and calligraphy when she grew up.
  Suddenly, the “switch” in my consciousness started: the urgency of living separately from my parents and making up for the lost time and my daughter’s eagerness to know about Chinese culture all kindled my passion for the Chinese language and longing to become a bridge between China and France. I love the French language, French literature and great French writers, and at the same time I also longed to know about that distant and mysterious China so as to be able to tell my French friends about a true China to help remove prejudice and censure against her. I am thankful to my parents for allowing me to develop and choose a career on my own. However, now, I have found a path for my development: I hope to become a bridge of dialogue between China and France, two ancient civilizations with a history of thousands of years.   Based on this thought, with the support and help of the FFCA Auvergne, and Ms. Chouvel, last October, I opened a Chinese corner in the association to help Chinese and French students have free exchanges of their views on the two languages and cultures so that they can become closer to each other, understand each other and know about each other’s way of thinking and cultural characteristics.
  Albert Camus once said: “My motherland is my language”. I have two motherlands, two languages and two cultures. When I was a child, I didn’t feel that. However, now I am obsessed with learning Chinese, because, through learning this beautiful, rich and complicated language, I came to know about a nation which is very important to me, and have become a bridge between Chinese and French cultures and languages. In addition, memories of my parents, the responsibility of propagating Chinese culture, and expectations of my daughter are also the reasons why I learn Chinese earnestly.
  (Yi’an, a name taken by Li Qingzhao, a poetess in the Song Dynasty, is also my Chinese name. I will forever remember this name given by my parents. I dedicate this essay to my parents and daughter Aihua (Eva). I hope she will not forget this name either.)

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