Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes diver­sify as lan­guage pro­gram grows

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By XING YI and LI YINGQING in Kun­ming

When Cana­dian pi­anist Roger Lord was per­form­ing at the Chi­nese New Year TV gala in 2013, one of the hosts was Mark Rowswell — bet­ter known by his Chi­nese name, Dashan, and for his mas­tery of Chi­nese cross-talk.

“We are both from Canada and have the same birth­day, but I have al­ways been en­vi­ous of Dashan’s abil­ity to speak flu­ent Man­darin,” says Lord.

That prompted Lord to regis­ter as a stu­dent at the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute in his home­town of New Brunswick, which was formed in part­ner­ship with a univer­sity in Qufu, Shan­dong prov­ince — the home­town of Con­fu­cius — to of­fer Chi­ne­se­lan­guage courses and ac­tiv­i­ties to the lo­cals.

Although Lord still can­not speak Chi­nese as flu­ently as Rowswell, he in­tro­duced him­self in Chi­nese last week when he was giv­ing a speech at the 11th Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute Con­fer­ence held in Kun­ming, Yunnan prov­ince.

“My Man­darin per­haps is not so good, but I think I can speak through mu­sic. My con­tact with the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute deep­ened my un­der­stand­ing of Chi­nese cul- ture,” says Lord, who has recorded a CD of Chi­nese mu­sic played on the piano, en­ti­tled Chi­nese Trea­sures.

Launched 12 years ago, the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute is a non­profit ed­u­ca­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion that works largely through co­op­er­a­tion be­tween a Chi­nese univer­sity and a for­eign coun­ter­part. It has had 511 branches in 140 coun­tries, teach­ing Chi­nese to more than 2.1 mil­lion stu­dents.

“In num­bers, the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute has be­come the big­gest ed­u­ca­tional and cul­tural com­mu­nity in the world,” says Hao Ping, China’s vice-min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion.

With rapid ex­pan­sion in re­cent years, the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute has also started to diver­sify by set­ting up in­sti­tutes that high­light tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine, busi­ness and fash­ion de­sign.

Zhang Haiyan has been study­ing multi­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion and teach­ing at uni­ver­si­ties in Europe for more than 30 years, and he is now the di­rec­tor of the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute at Neoma Busi­ness School in France.

That branch was founded in 2014 and is the first top­i­cal Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute that fea­tures a busi­ness pro­gram in France.

“There are now eight busi­ness Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes around the world,” says Zhang. “We formed a union to share re­sources and host in­ter­na­tional sem­i­nars.”

Be­sides lan­guage-re­lated courses and ac­tiv­i­ties for around 700 stu­dents per year, Zhang’s in­sti­tute of­fers train­ing for com­pa­nies who want to do busi­ness with China

“We teach them the busi­ness norms in China, such as the seat­ing or­der at a Chi­nese ban­quet, and give them an ori­en­ta­tion of the city they are go­ing to and an anal­y­sis of the lo­cal mar­ket they want to en­ter,” says Zhang.

Ac­cord­ing to Han­ban, an af­fil­i­ate agency of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion that over­sees all the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes, there are now 67 top­i­cal Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes around the world.

Lo­cal­iza­tion has been an­other trend for the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute: More lo­cal text­books are be­ing pub­lished and lo­cal teach­ers hired.

By the end of next year, there will be text­books and ref­er­ence books in 80 lan­guages, cov­er­ing all coun­tries that have a Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute.

“We had text­books only in nine lan­guages when we start- ed,” says Zhang Tonghui, di­rec­tor of the depart­ment of teach­ing ma­te­rial at Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute head­quar­ters. “Be­fore, stu­dents in many coun­tries had to learn Chi­nese through English ma­te­ri­als.”

Gu­ru­uchin Tsog­zol­maa is the di­rec­tor of the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute at the Mon­go­lian Na­tional Univer­sity of Ed­u­ca­tion, where 600 stu­dents are learn­ing Chi­nese.

Tsog­zol­maa has writ­ten two Chi­nese books about Mon­go­lian cul­ture, so that her stu­dents can learn how to use Chi­nese to talk about Mon­go­lian arts, mu­sic and folk­lore.

Cyn­thia Ning, di­rec­tor of Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute at the Univer­sity of Hawaii, says: “Lo­cal­iza­tion is a won­der­ful ini­tia­tive. When we have a sum­mer camp, I of­ten de­velop spe­cial in­for­ma­tion. I put a lot of Hawaii into the ma­te­rial.”

Ning has au­thored En­coun­ters, a text­book se­ries tai­lored for US stu­dents that uses a task-ori­ented ap­proach. It was pub­lished by Yale Univer­sity Press in 2012.

To de­velop a global eval­u­a­tion sys­tem for both Chi­nese learn­ers and teach­ers is an­other goal of the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute.

Sim­i­lar to the Test of English as a For­eign Lan­guage, the HSK — the ab­bre­vi­a­tion for the Hanyu Shuip­ing Kaoshi — is the Chi­nese pro­fi­ciency test used by Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties to eval­u­ate in­ter­na­tional ap­pli­cants.

More than 550,000 peo­ple have taken the HSK this year, ac­cord­ing to Chi­nese Test­ing In­ter­na­tional, a Bei­jing-based com­pany which works closely with Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute and or­ga­nizes the test monthly in more than 600 over­seas cen­ters.

The his­tory of the test goes back to early 1990s, but it was not un­til the past few years that the num­ber of peo­ple tak­ing it started to soar.

“In 2009, only around 100,000 peo­ple took the test,” says Zhang Yuan, the mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor of the com­pany. “But there has been a 30 per­cent in­crease each year since 2013.”

In 2014, the com­pany in­tro­duced the CTCSOL test, a cer­tifi­cate for teach­ers of Chi­nese to speak­ers of other lan­guages.

“The Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute hopes that all its teach­ers will pass this test by 2020,” says Zhang Yuan.

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Left: A cal­lig­ra­phy class helps lo­cals to learn the age-old art genre in the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute in Yeka­ter­in­burg, Rus­sia. Right: Pub­li­ca­tions on Chi­nese-lan­guage learn­ing are dis­played at the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute Con­fer­ence in Kun­ming early this month.

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