The Slovenes call the Chinese Zhanghua Ye as 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 the girl works as an interpreter and is engaged 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 baby heart. First of all, thanks to the fact that the Slovenes accepted her family very warmly. “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 the first week of studies 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 the Zhanghua’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 a complete support of the staff working in 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. The girl herself, among other things, notes that for learning a language, it is best to live in the environment, where this language is used and communicate only in it. 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. As significant benefits of Slovenia, she also refers to drinking water and environmental cleanliness, while in China, due to the rapid development of industry, people face a pollution problem. According to the girl, she 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.