Alex Joske

In the digital age, language students have unprecedented choice in learning materials. Films, television shows, music, instant messaging apps, podcasts, blogs – there are many innovative ways to learn the latest lingo.

However, few languages have the traditional charm of bamboo scroll inscriptions dating back to 300 BC.

ANU's Literary Chinese program, the only of its kind offered in Australia, provides students with "a fascinating gateway" into China's 5,000-year history, according to Alex Joske.

"It's really analytical and rewarding. It's definitely the best series of courses I've taken at ANU," said Alex, a Bachelor of Arts/Economics student minoring in the language.

"The texts we get are like puzzles. You have to come up with the translations by following certain steps: you skim over it, undertake a deeper reading, and then only after that do you use a dictionary to work out the characters you don't understand."

In addition to giving students a solid grounding in translation, Literary Chinese hones problem-solving and critical thinking skills critical for 21st century success.

The program has also given Alex an edge in other areas of his studies. In researching an essay on Chinese imperial history, his knowledge of Literary Chinese proved indispensable.

"I wrote about a Buddhist monk around 300 AD (Fotudeng) … who was the highest adviser to this barbarian kingdom in North China. I read original texts, while others in the class could only refer to secondary literature. It felt so rewarding to apply my Literary Chinese knowledge to scholarly work," he said.

There are other modern advantages from studying Literary Chinese. Apart from the newfound confidence reading modern Chinese courtesy of an expanded vocabulary, Alex said the classical language is useful in understanding the world's second-largest economy.

"Literary Chinese and economics pair together quite well. There are interesting studies about ancient's China's economy, particularly the Qing Dynasty currency and corruption during that time," he noted.

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Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team