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Italian teacher presents the real China to Italian readers through Italian translations of Chinese books

   People's Daily Online   08:23, January 14, 2022

"Quite a lot of people in Italy knew about ancient China and traditional Chinese culture, but little about the modern China," said Letizia Vallini, an Italian teacher at Nankai University in north China's Tianjin, who is also the translator of the book "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics: Why does it work?".

"Italian students learn about China mostly from articles written by people of the Western world. I believe it's very necessary to make the voice of Chinese scholars heard in Italy," Vallini said, explaining why she chose to translate the book into Italian.

Photo shows Letizia Vallini, an Italian teacher at Nankai University in Tianjin. (Photo provided by the interviewee)

The book "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics: Why does it work?” is about China's history, economy, society, culture, diplomacy and many other topics. After it was published by the Italian publishing house Marx Ventuno in Oct. 2019, the book aroused widespread attention in both countries. The publishing house also held online seminars to invite Italian scholars to discuss the book.

The book was a challenge for Vallini because it is about Marxism, a subject that she had little knowledge about. To translate the book, Vallini bought dozens of Chinese and Italian books for reference and consulted with experts to better understand the text.

Vallini said that due to language barriers, Italian students would choose either Italian or English language books to learn about China. However, most of these books are written by Westerners. Therefore, she hoped that she could convey the voice of Chinese writers to Italian readers through Italian translations of Chinese books.

Vallini talks with her students during class. (Photo provided by the interviewee)

Vallini said books translated into foreign languages offer an important channel for people to discover more about different cultures. There are many stereotypes of China in Italy, with some Italians even saying that the Chinese people of today still wear traditional Chinese garments. However, when they visited China to see the country for themselves, they found out what a modern country it is, Vallini said.

Vallini initially learned about China through the book "The Travels of Marco Polo," and before she came to China, she read books by Chinese writers so that she could learn more the country.

In 2013, Vallini, then a student at the University of Bologna majoring in foreign languages, applied for a Confucius Institute scholarship to pursue postgraduate studies at the College of Chinese Language and Culture of Nankai University.

When Vallini first set foot in China, she found that the country's level of development was much higher than she had expected. Over the course of the past few years, Vallini has witnessed the rapid development of multiple industries in the country, including food delivery and express delivery, among other sectors.

Students with the Department of Italian at Nankai University perform the famous Chinese drama "Thunderstorm." (Photo provided by the interviewee)

According to Vallini, since the Department of Italian was established by Nankai University in 2017, the department has held various activities to promote China-Italy cultural exchanges. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, some offline seminars were canceled, but online activities have been held regularly.

In June 2021, students at the Department of Italian at Nankai University and teachers from Sapienza University in Rome held an online meeting, during which students of both universities talked about their own countries and their life speaking each other's mother languages. Recently, students from the Department of Italian at Nankai University and the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy, joined a livestreaming session initiated by China Eastern Airlines to conduct talks with each other.