Since May of 2011, Casal Català in Beijing has offered Catalan classes in China, making it the first establishment to offer up Catalan language classes in the country
Students that seeks out Catalan language classes are usually young, women and fans for FC Barcelona. The bond between Catalan and FC Barcelona is one of the big reasons students pursue this language class
A group of young students of the Catalan language gather in the Chao Yang neighborhood of Beijing. They’ve been meeting since May of last year. One of the objectives of Catalan Communities living abroad is to bring the Catalan culture with them to their new country of residence, the vehicle by which many of these communities believe they can share their culture is through language. The Catalan Community in Beijing decided to promote the Catalan language but they quickly realised that Catalan language classes were not being offered in the city. Faced with this complication, they decided to start their own Catalan language program.
Among the difficulties that come with starting a new initiative from the groud up is finding a suitable building for the classes and finding students. In the end, however, the interest the city has in FC Barcelona and the interest to learn the language provided a very motivated group of students. The issue with finding a suitable location for the classes has yet to be completely resolved. The group has met in various locations, many times in local coffee shops.
Student profile: Culé, motivated and a progressive learner
The average Catalan language student is a motivated young woman and a fan of FC Barcelona. Some of the students are thinking about continuing their studies in Barcelona, some want to visit the city, others equate the language with Barça, and a few see the classes as a social get-together.
President of the Great Wall Penya Barcelonista Xavi Roch, who also teaches Catalan language courses, says the classes have been successful: “It makes me very happy to see the students improve their level of Catalan and their knowledge of the Catalan culture. For the most part the students are at level A1 of the Common European Framework. Some of the students have advanced to level A2. The progress of the course is satisfactory, keeping in mind that many of these students are either working or are university students. There are more students of the Catalan language in Beijing than other, as some might say, more famous languages. It’s an honour to be the only ones in China offering up courses in Catalan.”
Catalan language course a la Blaugrana
The fact that so many of the students are FC Barcelona fans and the strong bond between the Club and the Catalan language and culture brings a certain Barça element to the classes. When numbers are taught, the professors use the numbers on the back of the Barça strips to illustrate their point. In addition, the Barça hymn is one of the first things learned by the students. Learning to sing and understand ‘El Cant del Barça’ is “essential” in the class.
Acknowledgment from the Generalitat de Catalunya
Ever since the Casal Català was recognised as an official Catalan Community Abroad, the Generalitat has offered to help with counseling and the finances for the course. The Govern de la Generalitat is very aware of how important it is for people that are born outside of the Catalonia to have an interest in Catalan culture and language. The course in Beijing has served as a bridge to bring the students closer to Catalonia. More than half of the students have already visited Catalonia in part thanks to the language course they’re taking in Beijing. Currently, the course professors are helping the students earn official accredited degrees from the Generalitat.