Slovenes call the Chinese Zhanghua Ye “Anja.” She has been living in Slovenia for 22 years. She came to Slovenia as a child, studied at the basic and secondary schools, and graduated from the Faculty of Economics of the University of Ljubljana. Today she works as an interpreter and is involved in tourism. Zhanghua Ye also helps to establish the Slovenian-Chinese interstate cooperation.
Zhanghua Ye was born in China in Zhejiang Province. In China, she completed three years of studies in a basic school. Later, in 1996, she moved with her family to Slovenia. The country on the sunny side of the Alps won her heart. Slovenes accepted her family warm-heartedly. “In Slovenia, we met many kind-hearted people who often helped us from studying the language to adapting in Slovenian society,” she says.
However, during her first week at school, she experienced a small “cultural shock.”. “At that time, I could not speak Slovenian and English. Everything was alien to me: strangers’ faces, foreign language, new class, and new classmates… I felt so bad that I cried all the time,” Zhanghua Ye recalls her first week in Slovenia.
School psychologist Vesna Jurca tried to help the girl. She introduced Zhanghua Ye’s family to a Slovene family who helped them adapt to the Slovenian culture. “Since then, everything has worked out all right. Their son was my classmate. It is always easier for a child if he or she spends time together with other children,” says Zhanghua and adds that they still communicate closely and warmly with that family.
The most difficult “task” was to learn the language, because Slovenian and Chinese are very different. Besides that, she had to master the writing skills. An essential circumstance facilitating this process was complete support of the staff working at the school in which Zhanghua and her brother studied.
“I remember how the headmaster of the basic school, Mojca Škrinjar, hired a Chinese teacher who taught my brother and me the Slovenian language, and over time everything became easier.” Zhanghua was also supported by a Slovenian teacher in secondary school, who also helped her to pass the matriculation exam.
Zhanghua mainly deals with translation and interpretation, including at the interstate level. Almost nothing indicates a foreign origin in her pronunciation. She notes, among other things, that to learn a foreign language it is best to live in the environment where the language is used and communicate only in that language. Although she graduated from the Faculty of Economics, now she is mainly engaged in translation and tourism. With the increasing interest of Chinese investors in Slovenia, interest in the Chinese language also grows.
By area, Slovenia is 470 times smaller than China, and has 600 times less population. Zhanghua finds the pace of life to be the key difference between the two countries. It is much more unhurried in Slovenia. “There is no big hustle, so we have become much more capricious, in other words, more spoiled,” she explains and comes to the conclusion that she feels perfect in Slovenia.
“In China with its 1.25 billion population, there is a huge crowd of people whichever way you turn. Only one example: in Slovenia, there are a maximum of 28 students in one class, and in China, the same class will have 50 children. I’m sure this increases the burden on teachers and enhances the risk of stress,” explains Zhanghua.
“Life in Slovenia is more profitable from a financial point of view, since everyday expenses in China are higher, especially in megacities,” the girl says. She also refers to drinking water and environmental cleanliness as significant benefits of Slovenia, while in China, due to the rapid development of industry, people face a pollution problem. Zhanghua Ye really enjoys Slovenian nature. She most of all likes the tourist pearl Bled, as well as the seaside towns of Piran and Portorož.
She seldom visits her homeland because her family and parents live in Slovenia and other relatives have dispersed around the world. Zhanghua Ye has already become a real Slovenian girl, received citizenship and, as they say, took root. She calls herself “a Slovenian of Chinese origin” and does not plan to return to her homeland. However, she is happy to go to China on vacation.