Xinhua Insight: Language lessons help deepen ethnic ties in China's Xinjiang

11:12, July 05, 2010      

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Gazing at the lips of her teacher, 36-year-old An Ping thinks for a moment and bursts out with a string of unfamiliar words: "Eyuinez dikilar opdan turuwatamdu."

"It is a greeting for Uygur people meeting in the street. It means 'How is your family?'" says An, a community official of the Han ethnic group in Tianshan District in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

She is attending one of the government-organized Uygur language classes, along with about 80 colleagues -- mostly ethnic Han -- from different communities. The government bears all the costs for the full-time classes, which began in mid-April and will last six months.

An began working as a "grassroots-level official," as it is called in China, in her community 10 years ago. She had been using Mandarin, the Han language, to talk with people of other ethnic groups, or asking her Uygur colleagues to interpret for her.

"There seems to be a barrier between us if we don't talk in the same language," she says.

As adults, An says, she and her colleagues find it hard to learn a new language -- they also need to take care of their children and homes. An revises the words and expressions she has learned each day when her 10-year-old son goes to bed at night.

"It's worth the effort," she says. "If I can speak their language, I can communicate better with Uygur people, which will bring us closer and help me do a better job."

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