Chinese Language Flourishing Around the World
Review of 9th International Symposium on Chinese Language Teaching
The 9th International Symposium on Chinese Language Teaching was held between 15th and 17th December, 2008 in Beijing International Convention Center. Teachers and scholars in the field of Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages (TCSOL) from both China and abroad came for the symposium, whereby we witnessed a grand gathering of academic ideas, exchanges of views and exhibition of teaching resources.
The symposium is held once every three years. The agenda of this three-day symposium included the election of the new executive council and the academic discussion on “the international standards for Chinese language education and multi- lingual teaching”. Other activities, such as the exhibition of international Chinese teaching resources and the promotion of new products, were also held during the symposium.
In the morning of 15th December, the auditorium on the second floor of the Beijing International Convention Center was fully occupied. The opening ceremony of the 9th symposium was held there. About 1,000 guests, including experts, scholars and teachers who are engaged in Chinese teaching, research or promotion work, and the directors of some Confucius Institutes, were at the opening ceremony. Professor Xu Jialu, Vice-Chairman of the 9th & 10th Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of PRC and Dr. Xu Lin, Director General of Hanban and Chief Executive of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, both attended and addressed the ceremony.
In his address, Prof. Xu Jialu expressed that international Chinese language teaching has accomplished great achievements with an increasing number of people learning Chinese as the world globalizes. However, there still exist some pressing problems in promoting Chinese language internationally, among which is that the development of the discipline construction of Chinese language falls behind that of international Chinese language teaching. In addition, the current teaching appraisal and testing means fail to meet demands.
In her address at the ceremony, Dr. Xu Lin introduced the development of Chinese language teaching in the past four years. She noted that the situation of Chinese language teaching in the world is promising, as can be seen with the formation of international promotion system, establishment of the international education standards, expansion of the teaching staff and the development and improvement of the “Chinese Bridge” program. At the same time, she expressed that Hanban will step up support to the International Society of Chinese Language Teaching (ISCLT), especially in the studies of regional and national subjects.
Some Chinese and foreign experts, including the ISCLT President Lu Jianming and Joel Bellassen, inspector of Chinese language teaching with the French Ministry of Education, also addressed the ceremony and exchanged views with the symposium attendees.
Later on the same day, ISCLT representatives elected their new executive council. Professor Xu Jialu was elected as the next President of the ISCLT. Some Confucius Institutes, TCSOL organizations for primary and secondary schools and some non-government schools received the society’s membership for the first time, thus broadening the channels for further development and establishment of the society. The new council said that under the guidance of the ISCLT President-elect Xu Jialu, they would continue efforts to advance Chinese language teaching and research so as to bring the society’s role in the promotion of international Chinese language into full play.
In the following two days, around the theme of “international standards for Chinese language education and multi- lingual teaching”, delegates discussed 41 sub-topics under eight major topics: the current situation and discipline construction of international Chinese language teaching, the development of Confucius Institute, teaching methods and teaching modes, the development of international Chinese language teachers, the teaching and learning of Chinese language, Chinese language testing and appraisal/Chinese language examination. Every session had either one or two major speakers and the other participants expounded their views with the speakers during discussions. The atmosphere was lively and it was almost a full house at every session. Some representatives who failed to get a seat even had to stand at the doors. Prof. Luo Yun, the Chinese program coordinator at the College of the Holy Cross, U.S. said she has been a Chinese language teacher for many years but this is the first time she had attended such a big symposium. Many other representatives, like Prof. Bart Dessein from the University of Gent in Belgium, Prof. Geng Hu from east China’s Xiamen University and Deng Xiaoqin, associate professor from Shantou University in south China, all found the symposium very helpful. Although everyone agreed that the language had gained wide popularity and its international promotion had been relatively successful, problems still exist, like the changing structure of learners, teaching materials not applicable to local learners, lack of professionalism among teachers and low treatments of teachers in China and foreign countries.
The other three theme activities: the international Chinese teaching resources exhibition, the demonstration lectures and the promotion of new products for international Chinese teaching were as popular as the concurrent discussion sessions. In the 1500-sqm hall for the international Chinese teaching resources exhibition, more than 50 booths of over 40 exhibitors attracted many visitors. At a booth, the reporter found two foreign representatives in front of a Chinese map and the portrait of Confucius. With the explanation of the exhibitor, they pointed at the map and audio introduction were given. These introductions could even be switched between Chinese and foreign languages, and it can serve as a language repeater. Consequently they bought two of the maps with the intentions to use them in their classes. Many other similar products were also displayed at the exhibition. There were at least 15 types of paper and multi- media teaching materials, which were a real eye-opener for visitors. According to the sources of symposium, a total of 1,512 types of teaching products were displayed at the exhibition and more than 200 letters of intent on cooperation were signed during the symposium.
In the hall for the promotion of new products for international Chinese teaching, it was also crowded with visitors. The product “Traveling China with Dashan” produced by the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press and the HAFALA cartoon software dictionary launched by Shanghai Taotu Animation Technology Company won the applause from visitors. Similar level of enthusiasm was felt in the demonstration lectures as well. The interesting demonstration class on the five senses (ears, eyes, mouth, nose and body) given by Zhang Guiyuan earned the acclaim of the attendees.
In the afternoon of 17th December, with the completion of the agenda, this symposium concluded. In his conclusion report, ISCLT President. Xu Jialu said that the ISCLT encounters unprecedented good opportunities as well as new challenges. The priority should be placed on reforms because only reforms can vitalize the ISCLT as well as boost the international development of Chinese language. The long and loud applause of the representatives expressed their confidence in the promotion of Chinese language in the world and reflected the enthusiasm in their commitment for Chinese language teaching.