Over 800 people celebrated the European Day of Languages at a local shopping center on Monday. It is the third time for Hong Kong people to take part in this annual event, held by four European official institutes for culture in collaboration with consulates.

Visitors of different ages learned a few words and phrases of various European languages from native teachers in order to get stamps in what was called a language passport.

For the most popular booths including German, French and Italian, lines were half an hour long.

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“The event offers an opportunity for children to get insights into different cultures from the one they live in,” said Alex Chow, a participant with his 10-year-old son.

Twelve countries welcomed their language learners this year while Portugal and Romania removed themselves from the list of previous years.

Organizers said it was difficult to find qualified teachers for some particular languages, since they did not have much presence in commerce and cultural exchange in the territory.

Director of Italian Cultural Institute Andrea Giagnoli said Hong Kong, a former British colony, was no longer “heavily Anglo-centric” under the globalization in trade and education.

Silvia Law, student of minor program in French from City University said she planned to go to France for further study in arts. “Learning French helps me get access to more original resources for study,” she added.

“I hope the event can help to break down cultural barriers and open the door to professional opportunities,” said Carmen Cano, the organizer of the event.

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European languages are taught in four public universities in Hong Kong, but only those more spoken, according to the European Union office in Hong Kong.

Consulates offer more possibilities, instead, in collaboration with cultural institutes. More than five thousand people register for a German course in the state-run Goethe-Institut every year, according to the director Simone Voigt.

John Cribbin, expert in the field, believed that courses of European languages and culture should have “a significant role in such a niche market”.

Finnish consul Johanna Manni said, “We hope to work with the local authorities not only in tourism and commerce, but more important in cultural exchange beginning with the language.”

The shopping mall, connected with a metro station, was chosen for all the three sections of event. “With two universities and a few schools around, the event could meet more its potential visitors,” said a coordinator.

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