UN Chinese Language Program supervisor Yong Ho speaks during an exclusive interview with Xinhua at UN headquarters in New York, the United States, Sept. 21, 2015. (Xinhua/Hu Yousong)
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- Fourteen years ago when Yong Ho first joined the UN Chinese Language Program, he thought his mission was to introduce the Chinese language at the UN headquarters.
But more than a dozen years on, teaching Chinese at the multicultural world organization gives him a quite different perspective.
"Now I think the process of learning is more important than its results," said Ho, who is now supervisor of the UN Chinese Language Program.
"Language is linked with the way of thinking," said the 61-year-old, who received a PhD in anthropology linguistics in Columbia University in 1992. "Our students can perceive how Chinese think of something and why they think in that way. This can only be gained through learning the language."
Taking the language mechanism, in English, topic sentence always comes at the very beginning; while in Chinese, people tend to express what they really mean after they have explained the reason why they would say so, he said.
File photo: China's permanent representative to the United Nations Liu Jieyi speaks at the inauguration ceremony of the China Lounge and the unveiling ceremony of Professor Wang Linxu's paintings at the UN headquarters in New York, the United States, Dec. 22, 2014. (Xinhua/Niu Xiaolei)
"Every nation has its own culture and traditions that its people are proud of," and "language is a tool that is essential for better communication and understanding among cultures," said Ho, who is in charge of the design of Chinese courses, syllabus as well as selecting teaching materials.
The Chinese program is part of the UN language and communications program, which offers courses in six official languages of the United Nations, namely Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
The program offers both regular Chinese courses at nine levels, and special Chinese courses with emphasis on speaking or reading, as well as calligraphy class, to UN staff and diplomats of UN member states. Around 200 students are registered at each of the three semesters a year.
During his 14 years with the program, Ho has witnessed many UN officials and diplomats making progress in Chinese learning.
Among them, Ho mentioned a big name -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, saying Ban started practicing Chinese calligraphy with a Chinese teacher in the program in 2011.
"According to my observation, the Secretary-General likes to write two classic Chinese sayings, one is Qu Ze Quan; the other is 'the supreme virtue is like water,'" Ho said.
File photo: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presents to Chinese sculptor Wu Weishan a piece of Chinese calligraphy "the supreme virtue is like water" at a Chinese Sculpture Exhibition at UN headquarters on Sept. 4, 2012.(UN Photo)
Qu Ze Quan, a three-character Chinese old saying literally means "the partial becomes complete," can be interpreted as "compromise leads to success" or "to make concessions for the common good," he said. "The supreme virtue is like water, because water benefits everything without evoking conflicts or resistance."
"I think the message conveyed by these saying is consistent with what the UN has been advocating -- tolerance, inclusiveness, peace and compromise," he added.
"In the process of learning Chinese, one can perceive the essence of the Chinese culture -- something cannot be gained from media reports or some readings. It's an imperceptible process," he said, standing in the "China Lounge," the east foyer of General Assembly Building at the UN headquarters.
"What we are doing here is to help those who work at the UN through language learning to get to know other cultures in a comprehensive and in-depth way," he said.