Jip and Janneke according to Jiahui Jiang
Jiahui Jiang (re)translates Dutch children’s books like Jip and Janneke – Yiyi and Yaya – into Chinese. She teaches Dutch at the Communication University of China in Beijing and graduated in Dutch Studies at Leiden.
You’re paying a visit to your alma mater to attend an international colloquium on Dutch Studies. What are you taking away from this congress?
‘More than 250 lecturers in Dutch Studies from all over the world met together in Leiden in mid-August. It’s great to discuss developments in Dutch Studies and to exchange experiences. For instance, I met a Hungarian lecturer who’s translating Annie M. G. Schmidt’s Jip and Janneke into Hungarian. It was really interesting, because I’m currently retranslating twelve of Schmidt’s books into Chinese. They’d been published in Chinese once before, and now they’re being published again. We discussed the approach we’re taking. The Jip and Janneke and Floddertje books seem to be written in a very relaxed style, but when you translate them you discover how literary they actually are and how Schmidt played with language.'
‘I’m a full-time Dutch lecturer. I teach the students for all four years of their degree programme, from beginning to end. So I get to know them very well. I also know where most of them end up working: for instance, in the international banking sector or in business, and one of them wants to be a Dutch lecturer. The Dutch department there is small, but steady. For many years the number of students has hovered around twenty.’
Degree: Dutch Studies 2007–2009
Favourite spot in Leiden: ‘The Academy Building, because that’s where I left my mark: my signature on the wall.’
‘It was a bit by chance, really. I don’t have any relatives in the Netherlands or anything like that. I wanted to study a language that isn’t so well known. Then I looked at the list of smaller languages and ended up choosing Dutch. There are only three universities in China that offer a degree in Dutch. Once I began studying, I discovered that although Dutch is a small language, in some areas the Netherlands isn’t small at all – such as economics and the arts.’
‘Leiden is the only Dutch university that offers Dutch Studies, a degree in Dutch for international students. Leiden is a great little city, and of course it’s much less busy than Beijing. The programme was also very good for me, with much better facilities. At the time, my Chinese university only had about ten books in Dutch. The University Library in Leiden opened up a whole new world for me. I learnt so much more. Not only about the Dutch language, but also a lot about Dutch culture, including the many excellent painters, such as Van Dijck and Jan Steen.’
‘It was hard to get used to the winters; it goes dark earlier in the Netherlands. I spent the first couple of months making careful observations and then did my best to adapt to the lifestyle here. I noticed that Dutch people find it easy to approach strangers on the street. In China people tend to keep their distance much more. And there’s something else I’ve kept from Leiden: I met my boyfriend here! At the time he was working on his PhD at LUMC. We’re thinking about coming back to Europe, and I’d be quite happy if we wound up back in Leiden. Everything here is still so familiar.’
(23 september 2015 - LvP)