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Beijing Holds Foreign Language Festival

Cultural shows and English games were among nearly 20 activities on offer to tens of thousands of visitors to the Beijing Foreign Language Festival 2016 over the weekend.

Since the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics is a keyword for this year's event, citizens were able to learn about the history of the Olympics, in addition to language activities, according to a spokesperson with the city's foreign affairs office.

At one booth, in the cultural show zone, a woman from Krakow, Poland, whose English name is Anna, taught visitors some simple Polish phrases. "We designed games about the geography and customs of our country. Winners got traditional Polish desserts as prizes," she said.

Li Hua, 65, from Beijing, talked about her trip to Australia last year with Australian teacher Dick Hamilton. She is a regular participator of her community's English Corner.

"Learning English helps me stay young," Li said.

Chen Zhaochun, one of nearly 100 students from Beijing Tongzhou Taihu School who attended the festival, said she had never expected learning English to be so much fun.

"At school, it was just rote learning. But today, I played games and met new friends," Chen said.

Zhu Fang, a teacher with the school, said the event gave the students an opportunity to speak English in real life, as the rural school has no foreign teachers.

"Some of my pupils told me they now want to work as volunteers during the Winter Olympics in 2022," Zhu said.

Hamilton said the festival was the perfect atmosphere for practicing English.

The two-day event was jointly held by Beijing's foreign affairs office and the "Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages" campaign.

Chen Mingming, who heads an advisory group for the campaign, said the Olympics needs the support of China's citizens, and improved English proficiency will help make the athletes feel more welcome.

(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2016)

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