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To most non-locals, Beijing is a linguistically homogeneous city despite the influx of foreigners these years, but walking down the streets of Minzu University of China, there is a stream of languages my Eurocentric ear has never heard.

Minzu University translates roughly as “nationalities university,” and it both caters to Chinese students from the 55 minority nationalities and features a wide selection of ethnic studies courses. Yesterday I spent a good part of the day on its campus, talking with members of the Manchu Tungusic Language Society there.

From ethnic Kazakhs of western China to those from the 25 minorities of Yunnan province, more than 60% of enrolled students are from minority nationalities. And in part because of the minority students, many there speak multiple languages. One of the girls I was talking to yesterday spoke Chinese, Manchu, English, Japanese and German. What a linguistic wonderland!

And I’m happy to say that I now have a Manchu writing primer in my possession! How to teach myself from it, though, is something completely different.

On tomorrow’s plate: getting some b-roll at the Great Wall of China, which was built in part to keep out Manchus.

Good night!

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