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June 6, 2022

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It’s no longer ‘Greek or Chinese’ to keen learners

“To learn a language is to have one more window through which to view the world.”

According to the Internet, it is a Chinese proverb about language learning, but Dai Yifan, a 20-year-old exchange student in Athens, disputes this.

Similarly, 21-year-old Stamatis Karasavvidis says “The limits of my language are the limits of my world” isn’t Greek, though the Internet claims so.

According to Karasavvidis, 21, one adage that is unmistakably Greek is:

“It is all too Chinese to me.”

The Greek student, who is studying Chinese for two years, says that is a common expression among Greeks when they don’t understand something.

Some say the Internet has made it much easier to understand other cultures, while others argue it has increased cultural stereotypes and misunderstandings. Either way, it is always challenging to understand a culture that is different from your own, especially ones as ancient and complex as China and Greece.

“We are two countries with rich histories and many similarities,” Krasavvidis told Shanghai Daily. “We should both learn more about one another since learning is one thing we share in common — ‘Γηράσκω ἀεὶ διδασκόμενος,’ or ‘Live to be old, learn to be old.’”

Learning a language can undoubtedly be beneficial. Shanghai Daily spoke with Dai and Karasavvidis about the joys of language learning and the stereotypes they have worked to overcome.

Q: What was the biggest change in impressions about Greece and China before and after learning the language?

Dai: My impression of Greece was limited to its ancient history, such as Greek mythology and architecture, great Mediterranean cuisine and beautiful islands.

Now I have learned more about modern Greece and its people. How do they celebrate holidays? What is their lifestyle? So, learning the Greek language has been an ongoing process for me to break stereotypes and discover the multi-layered charm of the nation.

Before I came to Greece to study for a year, I thought Greek people were “lazy but enthusiastic” because they don’t like working. But then I discovered that many Greeks really love their work and even consider it a part of their life.

Many Greek restaurant and shop owners see all their customers as their friends, so you can always find Greeks chitchatting in front of a shop or restaurant, even if they have only just met.

I’ve also met a few Greeks who can speak a line or two in Chinese, which surprises me. For those Greeks who are really interested in Chinese culture, the depth of their knowledge and the level of their passion are equally fascinating.

Karasavvidis: One thing that I really understood after I started learning the language is how different Chinese dialects can be. The first time I saw a wordlist of Shanghai dialect, everything was lost to me, even if I knew the words in Mandarin.

Q: There is an increased partnership between China and Greece in recent years. Has that reflected in your own life? Is there more news about Greece and China? Do your classmates and friends pay more attention to the nation?

Dai: My Chinese friends are definitely paying more attention to everything Greek, and my Greek friends, likewise, mostly about culture, tourism and trade. For example, many Chinese friends know more about beautiful Greek cities and islands now than Athens or Santorini.

Greek yogurt skincare products are getting popular in China. And my Greek friends are very interested in Chinese e-commerce sites and street food.

Karasavvidis: Due to COVID-19, there has been an increase in the local news coverage of China and the Chinese measures of combating it became a matter of debate among the Greeks, with many agreeing and supporting the measures that China took, while others consider the measure “too harsh.”

Unfortunately, due to the influence of fake news in Greece, there are many misconceptions among many Greeks about China. But then, fortunately, there are many different views about China here. Some see it as a big country with a long history far away, while some are not able to see it correctly, and still many others admire and support its civilization and the socialist system.

The vast majority of Greek people, with all these different views, see the Chinese people as friends!

E-trade and the technology sector are things that definitely put China in the minds of the Greeks. Ordering directly from China on the Internet has become extremely popular. Many people also see China as a country with very strong job potential and the Chinese language as an important part of their CV.


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