Respected Mr. Aziz Ahmad Khan, Rector of the National University of Modern Languages,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to attend the Pakistan Finals for the10th "Chinese Bridge" competition. I would like to thank National University of Modern Languages (NUML) and Islamabad Confucius Institute (ICI) for their thoughtful arrangements for today's contest. And I would also like to congratulate our young contestants on their amazing language abilities! I'm really impressed by your proficiency in Chinese language and understanding in Chinese culture. I believe you will excel in the final competition in China.
The "Chinese Bridge" competition is now a huge success. Launched in 2002, a hundred thousand students from more than seventy countries have competed. We should give a big cheer for how the competition is boosting the learning of Chinese language and arousing a "Chinese fever" all around the world.
On this occasion, I would like to say a few words on language.
Language is a skill. Acquiring a new language means mastering additional skills in communication and having more opportunities for career development. Specific to Pakistan, as we all know, the China-Pakistan relationship is all-weather and time-tested. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit last year has created a new dimension for people-to-people exchanges. In the joint statement, we agreed to expand people-to-people interactions in a comprehensive manner and intensify Chinese and Urdu languages learning. China will invite 100 Pakistan high school students to the "Chinese bridge" Summer Camp and continue to provide Confucius Institute scholarships to Pakistan college students. China will also provide 500 government scholarships to Pakistan in 3 years starting from 2011. It is really high time for Chinese learning.
Language is a bridge. My predecessor Mr. Zhang Chunxiang, the 13th Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, is a fluent Urdu speaker. I know many of my colleagues have keen interests in picking up Urdu language. And I also know many Pakistanis can speak Chinese, some of them were students of NUML or ICI. They have made great contributions to China-Pakistan ties. We are proud of them. And today I would like to specially mention the students of ICI. Last December when the Chinese Premier visited Pakistan, there was a "free talk" at the Pakistan-China Friendship Center attended by people working for our friendship. Toward the end, Junaid Bashir, a boy from ICI, and Rabya, a 14-year-old girl, recited a poem titled "Pakistan-China Friendship" in Chinese and English respectively. The audience were greatly impressed and many of them moved to tears. This is the power of language.
Language is a window. It is not just a system of symbols, but is also the most important carrier of cultural messages. Some poet once said, "Language is the dress of thought", "words are but signs of ideas". Learning Chinese is like opening a widow to Chinese culture. You can gain much insight into Chinese people's way of life, behavior, values, national psychology and character, as well as factors leading to China's economic and social transformation in the past few decades.
Language is a fun. Making learning fun is a sure recipe for success, and that explains why the "Chinese bridge" a success. As a diplomat, I not only work in your country, I'm actually living here. Life needs to be of fun. Two weeks ago, I learned from local English newspapers that Mr. Abdul Hamid, a prolific Urdu writer, passed away. Pakistan National Language Authority Chairman Mr. Iftikhar Arif called his death "the end of a golden period of romantic poetry." The Chinese people, including me, love poetry. However, I barely get the pleasure of reading his poetry. What a pity! It often occurs to me that my life here would have been much more interesting and fulfilling if only I understood your language.
I sincerely hope that an increasing number of Pakistan friends find learning Chinese interesting and beneficial. The Chinese embassy will continue to provide the best possible support.