“When you learn a language, you need to learn its culture; otherwise, you think someone wishes you ‘to break a leg’ when they actually wish you ‘good luck’”.

Roser Cervera was born and raised near Barcelona. From an early age, Roser began to learn French and became fluent in the language. Her fluency enabled her to work abroad, including representing the French Embassy. She has been in China since 2002 when the French Embassy sent her to Changchun to teach in Changchun Foreign Language School, which she says was “a childhood dream”, as she had always wanted to “learn Chinese and Chinese culture”.

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While in Changchun, she collaborated with the Foreign Affairs Office, helping to organise an art exhibition with the Spanish Embassy. She also performed on many occasions for Changchun TV. They even made a programme about her life in China. She said that “she has been lucky enough during her years in China to embrace Chinese culture and collaborate in different projects with the local governments of Changchun, Nanhai and Zhuhai as well as the Spanish and French Embassy.”

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Roser (centre) with the former Queen of Spain, Queen Sofia (right)

Before UIC contacted her in 2006, she was originally working as the French Programme Director at the Nanhai campus of South China Normal University in Guangdong. She said they were looking for a French lecturer and to open up a Spanish section and were interested in recruiting her. Roser was intrigued by Zhuhai and the fact that UIC is a liberal arts college, so she decided to make the journey and has now been here for over 10 years. She currently teaches Spanish and Spanish Culture in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences (DHSS) to students at UIC and supervises the Spanish Club.

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Roser in Shenyang

“Teaching foreign languages and cultures to foreigners is my speciality.” Roser studied French in school and Music in the Conservatory, but she has learned multiple languages during her life. Roser speaks Spanish, English, French, and Catalan fluently. She also speaks Chinese and Italian as well as understanding Portuguese. She studied Latin and Greek in school, as well as Hindi, Assamese and Lao during her travels.

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Roser at the Changchun TV Chinese New Year Programme

When Roser would travel, she would carry a diary with her to write down simple words and sentences like ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’, and ‘please’ in the local language. She is also an avid collector of “The Little Prince” books in various languages, which she has displayed at exhibitions at UIC for the students to see. She has supplied books in multiple languages and has asked various speakers to read passages of the book in their native language for the students to hear.

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Roser French students at Changchun Foreign Language School in 2002

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Roser attending her first Chinese wedding

Roser recalled a time in which she and a friend were travelling in Europe and miscalculated the currency amount to purchase a visa in Turkey, on her birthday of all days. Luckily, the pair were able to obtain their visas by speaking to the local police and kindly explained their situation. They were big supporters of Barcelona Football Club and were extremely friendly to them. She said this made her “realise how being aware of another country’s culture that you are travelling to, as well as trying to speak their language in addition to understanding their lifestyle makes you learn and grow so much”.

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Roser at the Chinese New Year Festival of Huaqiao Foreign Languages Institute in 2003

“I love meeting people from different countries,” Roser told the story of her travels in India, where she backpacked for two months. She met someone on the plane, who was travelling back to India to get married. After helping the flight crew with some translation between passengers and having an overall friendly personality, the soon-to-be-married young man invited her to his wedding in Northern India in the state of Assam. It was there where she met her husband.

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Roser with her son, student and colleague

“Being able to follow your passion, make a difference in student’s lives, and help them grow to better themselves is as great an achievement as it is a mother to my son, my most special Little Prince”.

Reporter: Marissa Furney
Photographs supplied by Roser Cervera
Editors: Samuel Burgess, Deen He, Étienne Fermie
(from MPRO)