- Belgian's localized linguistic adventure
Name: Romuald Bronchart
Time spent in Wuhan: Around 2 years
Occupation: TV host and student at Central China Normal University
On November 25, Romuald Bronchart, a Belgian postgraduate student at Central China Normal University, together with cameraman Wu Wenpei, visited a number of historical streets and alleys located along the Yangtze River in Hankou and conducted several vox pop interviews for their online program, Brother is Coming. Having studied Chinese for more than 20 years, this clever Belgian student is now using his bilingual talents to engage local citizens and promote the Wuhan dialect.
Romuald Bronchart in the Hankou Riverside Park
Producing a program for the teaching of the Wuhan dialect
"Do you know what diduo means? Can you make a sentence with this word?" Romuald and Wu stopped people on the streets and invited them to explain the meaning of this word, which means wordy. When he asked a 60-year-old man about this word, the man turned to him and asked, in English, "Where are you from?" This reaction surprised Romuald and amused onlookers watching nearby.
The program Brother is Coming is an online language learning program produced by Romuald and Wu Wenpei.
Wu is a professional photographer. Romuald met him backstage at the filming of a local program. They quickly realized that they shared the same interests in music, and before they knew it, they were fast friends. With Wu's help, Romuald learned the ropes for life in Wuhan and regained his proficiency in Chinese. Two months ago, Wu decided that he wanted to produce a program for the teaching of the Wuhan dialect with short two to three-minute episodes. Wu, a native of Wuhan, wants to promote the local dialect and help people learn about this important part of the local culture. He realized that if Romuald helped introduce words and phrases from the local dialect in English, the program could benefit both Chinese people and foreigners. From this idea, the program Brother is Coming was born.
"We are the producers and creators. We have no scripts to follow." Wu helps Romuald understand the meaning of the word or phrase they want to introduce. The filming and editing work usually takes most of an afternoon to complete. The vox pop interviews incorporated into each episode are particularly entertaining. They enjoy engaging older Chinese people, for the older generations typically provide the most vivid and authentic explanations.
For the first episode, Romuald introduced the phrase helaozi, an iconic local phrase. This expression is similar in meaning to "Oh my god!" It is a common expression which many use on a daily basis in Wuhan. 24 hours after the first episode was uploaded to Youku, a Chinese video sharing platform, the video had been viewed 7,300 times.
A few days later, Romuald was invited to show his video to a class of elementary school students. This comical, well-edited video was well received by the students. Romuald was pleased by the students' reactions. "It makes me believe that our work is worthwhile. I hope my work can broaden people's horizons. We want to make a 'thick' program, one which is amusing yet educational."
The ups and downs of language learning
Romuald became proficient in Chinese at a young age. He lived in Singapore from the time he was 1 until he was 5. His parents moved there for work. All of his classmates were Asian, so he learned Chinese from his friends at school.
Romuald traveled to China with his parents in the 1990s. He still has a number of photos from Beijing.
After he and his family returned to Belgium, his parents "forced" him to continue studying Chinese. Romuald wasn't thrilled by this. "I didn't use Chinese in daily life. I couldn't see why I needed to learn such a difficult language." Romuald said that he had Chinese classes every day until he went to college. When he was 15 years old, he wrote an article for the People's Daily in Chinese detailing his Chinese language learning experience. After he started college, Romuald stopped studying Chinese.
"I was much more proficient when I was in high school," Romuald explained, "I went to an international high school in Belgium. Most of my classmates went off to schools in other countries, but I chose to do my undergraduate and graduate studies in Belgium. After I obtained my master's degree from Louvain School of Management in 2013, I decided to move to China to gain more experience overseas."
A Chinese friend offered Romuald a job as a TV host in Wuhan. Romuald accepted, packed his bags, and set out for Wuhan, a city of which he had never heard.
Embracing and immersing himself in the local culture
As time went on, Romuald got the hang of Chinese again and began immersing himself in the local culture. As a host for a local food program, Romuald has explored numerous local dining spots. He has sampled exotic cuisines, as well as dined on local specialties at popular, albeit not very well known, local restaurants.
In September of this year, Romuald started as a Chinese major at Central China Normal University. Outside of his studies and his work as a TV host, Romuald also works as a model and event host. He also volunteers. All of his experiences here in Wuhan help him with his program Brother is Coming. He has started inviting expats and local celebrities to take part in this exciting program. He hopes to raise awareness about the need for dialect protection and preservation, as well as become famous nationwide.
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