Chen Zhili: a successful example of international Chinese language promotion and Chinese-foreign cultural exchanges – to the 10th anniversary of the Confucius Institute

[Source]    Renmin Daily [Time]    2015-02-05 16:46:39 

Confucius Institutes: cooperation and future

The last decade has witnessed the noteworthy accomplishments made by Confucius Institutes. These amazing accomplishments are the successful results of the concerted efforts of people from all over the world, thus the common wealth of mankind.

A unique cooperative operational mode has been formed -- a Confucius Institute requires efforts of both a Chinese university and a foreign one. According to The Constitution and By-Laws of the Confucius Institutes, the foreign applicant should voluntarily submit an application request to the Confucius Institute Headquarters and then a cooperation agreement will be signed on the basis of a full consultation of both sides if the applicant is qualified. The foreign party serves as the major force in the construction of Confucius Institutes, while the Chinese party an assistant. The funds should come from both parties. All these rules ensure a win-win partnership for both sides and therefore a rapid growth of Confucius Institutes.

A relatively complete system of rules and regulations has been built. In the development course of Confucius Institutes, a complete system of relevant rules and regulations has gradually taken shape. The Council of the Confucius Institute Headquarters has discussed and passed The Constitution and By-Laws of the Confucius Institutes, and then laid down a succession of regulations such as Chinese Language Proficiency Scales for Speakers of Other Languages, International Curriculum for Chinese Language Education and Standards for Teachers of Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages, all of which have effectively ensured the sound development of Confucius Institutes.

Concerted efforts of different parties have created a favorable environment for the growth of Confucius Institutes. The annual Confucius Institute Conference, a valuable platform for delegates from all over the world to put forward and share their thoughts, suggestions, experience and development plans, has played an important role in improving the teaching quality of Confucius Institutes as a whole. Prominent teachers dispatched by Chinese universities have put all their heart into their work, thus being the nucleus to propel the progress of Confucius Institutes. Chinese embassies and consulates in foreign countries have lent full support to and done much coordinated work for the operation and growth of Confucius Institutes. Chinese ministries and commissions as well as different social sectors concerned all provide aid and support for Confucius Institutes. The Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) has blazed a trail for international Chinese language teaching through its forging ahead spirit, hard work and constant innovation.

The close attention and cordial concern of Party and state leaders are a fundamental guarantee for the sound development of Confucius Institutes. Chinese President Xi Jinping and former President Hu Jintao have made important instructions on many occasions and pointed out the teaching objectives and missions as well as the fundamental principles of Confucius Institutes. Mr. Li Changchun and Mr. Liu Yunshan have always cared for and supported Confucius Institutes; they guided Confucius Institutes through many difficulties and problems encountered in the course of the development of Confucius Institutes. Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong has uninterruptedly pressed ahead the work of Confucius Institutes. Mr. Xu Jialu, Vice-Chairman of the 9th & 10th Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of P.R.C. and a renowned linguist, has devoted himself heart and soul to promoting Chinese globally and cultural exchange between China and the rest of the world.

The last decade has witnessed the rapid growth of Confucius Institutes. At a new starting point, Confucius Institutes should spare no effort to make greater contributions to promoting Chinese worldwide and friendships between China and its foreign partners through sticking to the correct teaching objectives, continuing to perfect the operational mechanism and striving to improve the teaching quality.

Confucius Institutes need to adhere to the basic task of promoting Chinese and Chinese teaching. The enthusiasm of foreign countries for the establishment of Confucius Institutes springs from people’s need and passion for Chinese language learning, and therefore Chinese promotion and Chinese teaching are the very foundation and lifeblood of Confucius Institutes. If Confucius Institutes deviated from their fundamental task, they would be like “water without sources” or “trees without roots”.

Confucius Institutes need to adhere to the operational mechanism of “Chinese-foreign cooperation in running school with the foreign partner as the major force” so that the foreign partner university can take the initiative and fulfill its role. In addition, respect should be shown for the opinions and rights of the foreign university, for local actual conditions and for cultural differences. Only in this way can efforts of all sides be mobilized to the maximum to run Confucius Institutes.

Confucius Institutes should be further localized. The cultivation and training of local Chinese language teachers and the development of local Chinese language teaching materials should be enhanced so that Chinese language teaching can be combined with local culture and thus cultural diversity can be shown in the teaching process. Theoretical research on intercultural exchanges should also be strengthened to lay a foundation for the development of theories on the localization of Confucius Institutes.

Confucius Institutes need to improve their teaching quality and expand their teaching in content. Teaching level of the teachers should be raised to ensure the overall quality of teachers of Confucius Institutes. Training for local Chinese language teachers should also be strengthened. Overseas Chinese, including overseas Chinese students, can be recruited as Chinese language teachers to make full use of their bilingual advantages. Excellent Chinese language textbooks and books on Chinese culture should be developed continuously so that the system of teaching resources can be further improved. Efforts should also be made to enhance the Internet-based teaching and the establishment of teaching resource pool in order for Chinese language learners to get easy access to high-quality learning materials anytime anywhere.

An organic bond should be made between Chinese language teaching and cultural exchanges. Just as Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out, “The mastery of a language gives one a key to another culture.” Those who have mastered Chinese as the key in their hands naturally wish to open the door of the hall of profound Chinese culture. Hence, besides providing Chinese language courses, Confucius Institutes are obligated to introduce Chinese culture, in particular its fine part, to learners. The level of cultural promulgation should be elevated through the studies, discovery and protection of fine traditional Chinese culture. Moreover, with the help of the platform offered by Confucius Institutes, comparative research on Chinese and foreign cultures should be reinforced so as to learn from the outstanding achievements of other cultures.

The last decade is by no means ordinary for Confucius Institutes. It has been a decade of trials and hardships indeed, but of fruitful achievements as well. A multitude of new development opportunities are awaiting Confucius Institutes ahead. Confucius Institutes will surely make greater contributions in the future to promoting Chinese worldwide, facilitating Chinese-foreign cultural exchange and establishing a harmonious world.

Today, we are delighted to see that over 100 million people are studying Chinese all over the world and that Confucius Institutes, along with other Chinese language teaching institutions, have been set up everywhere. In these institutions, prominent scholars teach or give lectures and “East” meets “West”. On the other hand, there are some three million overseas Chinese students around the globe learning the essence of different cultures. In China, hundreds of millions of people are studying foreign languages, in particular the language of English, and all kinds of foreign language schools, training classes or cram classes can be seen almost everywhere. In response to the domestic “Foreign Language Fever”, China shows a high degree of inclusiveness, open-mindedness and confidence in her own culture. In contrast, some other countries seem to hold an inappropriately narrow-minded or even biased attitude toward Confucius Institutes. However, they will certainly not in the least hinder the development of Confucius Institutes.

Confucius Institutes will undoubtedly enjoy a brighter future!

(Written by Chen Zhili, the 1st Chairman of the Council of the Confucius Institute Headquarters)

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