The National Chinese Language Conference 2010 Convenes in Washington D.C.

[Source]    CRI Online [Time]    2010-04-26 10:25:07 

The National Chinese Language Conference 2010 was held from April 22nd to 24th in Washington D.C. The conference is dedicated to promoting exchanges among Chinese teaching institutes and teachers in the US as well as to driving forward the development of Chinese teaching. Over 1150 guests from Chinese teaching institutions took part in the conference. A number of symposiums, presentations, roundtable meetings as well as academic activities were held in regards to the topics of compiling teaching material, teaching methodology etc. Some exhibitions about Chinese teaching resources were also held concurrently.

The National Chinese Language Conference which has been held annually since 2008 is a large-scale academic conference work that aims to promote Chinese teaching within the US. It is jointly sponsored by the Asia Society, the American College Board as well as China’s Hanban and is the largest assembly for Chinese teaching and research in the US.

The topic of this year’s conference is “Learning Chinese, Thinking Globally”. Dr. Vishakha N. Desai, President of the Asia Society, as one of conference sponsors, stated that more and more Americans have realized it is vital to learn foreign languages in order for students become international competitive talents. “In regard to international competitive capacity, we are seriously concerned. It is very important to understand and learn about the rest of the world if we want our students to have global vision and international competitive capacity. This is not so difficult as we all know the significance of it. However, we wish to increase awareness among more people, including our senators, so that they may come to realize the international competitive capacity refers to not only subjects of natural science or math, but also other languages and cultures.”

Rush Holt, US State Senator of New Jersey, said that as one of supporters of foreign language education, the role of foreign language teaching in cultivating talents is unquestionable. “It is important that we do not underestimate the importance of foreign language education, and as such, we shall make an effort into investing more resources into developing the education system in relation to teaching foreign languages. “

Some American government departments have already recognized the significance of foreign language teaching, especially in the education of Chinese. Judith A. McHale, Undersecretary of State, said that the importance of Chinese education is not confined to international talent cultivation, it also has an effect on the Sino-US relations. “Just like President Obama said, the strength of the 21st century is not a zero-sum game. Those who believe China’s rising will bring threatening to the US or the continuing growth of China will cripple the leadership of the US are groundless. On the contrary, I think the continuous growth of China’s assets and international influence is an opportunity for the US to build up a new productive partnership. In order to establish a stronger partnership, the two nations must enhance non-government exchanges. The promotion of Chinese language education is crucial in realizing this purpose.”

McHale pointed out the US Department of State has not only given importance to Chinese teaching, but also has taken actions to promote Chinese teaching. “President Obama declared during his visit in Shanghai in last November the US will send 100,000 of its students to study in China in the next 4 years. We have had a good beginning; China is now the second overseas study destination for American students besides countries in west Europe. The Department of State is supporting US students in studying in China through all kinds of exchange programs. This effort is being made in various levels from high schools to university scholars. In addition, we are looking for ways to expand Chinese teaching programs in primary schools. We are dedicated to promoting the teaching of important foreign languages in high schools and primary schools, including Chinese. Amongst the 7 language programs we are working on, Chinese is the most popular one of all.”

According to a survey conducted by the Asia Society, Chinese is taught in most American universities. Delegates from relevant industries believe that the promotion of Chinese can reach a new high only if Chinese curricula are established among primary and high schools. Dr. Vishakha N. Desai, President of the Asia Society, pointed out there was a marked increase in the establishment of Chinese curricula in American primary and high schools, particularly in the past 5 years. The Asia Society and Hanban have worked together to establish a network of Confucius Classrooms in the US and has selected 20 American primary and high schools as the first group of schools to establish Confucius Classrooms so as to foster the development of Chinese teaching.

Desai said: “The Hanban-Asia Society Confucius Classroom network will eventually consists of 100 excellent Confucius Classrooms including primary schools, junior highs, senior highs, public schools, private schools, urban schools and suburban schools. Each school has a Chinese sister school from Beijing, Shanghai, or schools from other municipalities and seven other provinces.”

The Washington D.C. International School is the only school in where Hanban and the Asia Society has established a Confucius Classroom in the Washington D.C. Area. The school attracted lots of visitors during the conference. According to Li Shanying, who has taught Chinese in the school for many years and has personally experienced the rapid development of Chinese teaching in recent years: “Chinese teaching in our school has soared. I began to teach in Washington D.C International School in 2003, and at that time only a few students were learning Chinese. Chinese was being taught as a tertiary language, rather than a secondary foreign language until 2007. .”

Xu Lin, Director General of Hanban and General Director of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, was a special guest of the National Chinese Language Conference 2010 and indicated that the enthusiasm of American primary and secondary schools in establishing Chinese curricula has proven that Chinese teaching is being recognized by the official American educational system.

“Chinese lessons in the US are warmly welcomed by an increasing number of American educational institutes and schools. Many people have told me that officials in various school districts and states are interested in the development of Chinese curricula, as well as the establishment of programs such as summer camps in China, and the organization of visits to China on the part of official delegations from the educational system. It seems clear that the conference has played a significant roles in promoting Chinese education, particularly among primary and secondary schools.”

Delegates agreed that the teaching of Chinese in the US has made major progress especially in the primary and high schools within the official education system. As it is easier for students to learn foreign languages at earlier ages, the development of Chinese education in American primary and secondary schools has built up a solid foundation for the promotion of Chinese.