29 Confucius Institutes in Central and Eastern Europe Serve as Pioneers in Cultural Exchanges along the “Belt and Road”

[Source]    21st Century Business Herald [Time]    2017-12-05 17:58:22 

At the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in May this year, President Xi Jinping pointed out that “State-to-state relations thrive when there is friendship between the peoples. And such friendship grows out of close interactions between the peoples”, which demonstrates that cultural exchanges and cooperation are the soul of the “Belt and Road”.

In Central and Eastern European countries, especially in Hungary, the journalist from 21st Century Business Herald has perceived that locals are quite interested in Chinese. In its relatively limited land area, Hungary boasts 4 Confucius Institutes. Many local primary and secondary schools offer Chinese courses and Chinese is included in the college entrance examination. In her interview with 21st Century Business Herald, Ye Qiuyue, Vice President of the European Association for Chinese Teaching, said that Hungary has initiated the “all-through” era of Chinese teaching.

Over 37,000 Registered Students

Despite the limited number of countries and relatively small size, Central and Eastern Europe is a prominent area for the development of Confucius Institutes. Official figures the journalist of 21st Century Business Herald get show that at present, 29 Confucius Institutes and 34 Confucius Classrooms have been established in 16 Central and Eastern European countries. 2016 witnessed the registration of over 37,000 students and the organization of over 1,800 various cultural activities attracting more than 450,000 participants. From 2016 to 2017, the Confucius Institute Headquarters has successively held two sessions of Summer Camp Program for Confucius Institutes in the Central and Eastern Europe, inviting a total of 1,451 teachers and students from 16 countries to visit China.

Among the 500 global Confucius Institutes, only 16 are model ones, two of which are located in Central and Eastern European countries. The Confucius Institute at the University of Roland in Hungary is one of them.

Ye Qiuyue revealed to the journalist that teacher training for the institutes in Central and Eastern Europe is characterized by the fact that all Chinese language teachers are foreigners (from Central and Eastern Europe), while in other places such as France and the United States, overseas Chinese often serve as teachers. It can be seen that Chinese language is quite popular in Central and Eastern Europe. “Experts from China initially felt worried that their lectures could not be understood, but to their astonishment, everything has gone smoothly, proving that local sinology has developed very well.” Ye also said that Chinese language has prospered in Hungary.

When the journalist encountered a Chinese tourist group on the streets of Budapest, an old Chinese lady said amazedly that though the tour guides are mainly overseas Chinese in her travel to other European countries, natives serve as tour guides in Hungary. Although they are blonde-haired and blue-eyed, their Chinese pronunciation is fluent and accurate. Thanks to the efforts of these native tour guides that Chinese tourists and local Hungarians have gained more in-depth exchanges.

Chinese-funded Enterprises Promote Chinese Craze

In fact, Chinese language development has a time-honored history in Hungary, which is one of the first countries in the world to recognize and establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. In June, 2015, the two governments signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Jointly Promoting the Construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, the first such cooperation document signed between China and an European country, thus achieving the organic link of China’s “Opening to the West” Strategy and Hungary’s “Opening to the East” Policy. In 2016, the two sides established the “Belt and Road” joint working group and Hungary became the first European country to establish a cooperation mechanism under the Belt and Road Initiative. In 2017, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán paid a visit to China to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, during which two countries upgraded their bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership. In this context, with the ever increasing “Chinese Craze” in Hungary, the Confucius institutes are booming.

According to Ye, Hungary is home to four Confucius Institutes and two Confucius Classrooms. In 2016, there were over 3,800 registered trainees and over 240 cultural events with more than 103,000 participants. The 4 Confucius Institutes in Hungary are unique and distinctive: the Confucius Institute at the University of Roland compiles its own Chinese language textbooks, trains local teachers and facilitates the inclusion of Chinese test in the senior high school graduation exams; the Confucius Institute at Szeged University holds diverse and colorful cultural activities; the Confucius Institute at the University of Miskolc actively serves Chinese-funded enterprises; the Confucius Institute for Traditional Chinese Medicine at the University of Pecs offers traditional Chinese medicine credit courses and conducts high-end academic exchanges about traditional Chinese medicine.

As the popularity of Chinese has risen, more and more Hungarian families have exposed their children to Chinese learning at younger age and participated in some Chinese classes. Some Hungarian primary and secondary schools have also opened up Chinese courses and included Chinese as the second foreign language in the examination subjects. “Learn Chinese well, and you will have many job opportunities in the future,” said David, a student from the University of Roland. He also said that he is keenly aware that with more and more Chinese companies coming to Hungary, he may have the opportunity to work in Chinese-funded enterprises and learning a second language at school is beneficial.

In fact, as Chinese-funded enterprises invest and set up factories along the “Belt and Road”, their demand for local language talents has also greatly increased. Apart from relying on the teaching sites set up by the Confucius Institutes in various countries along the route, the institutes also actively cooperate with universities in China, jointly cultivating minority language talents. Ye said that taking Hungarian for example, in the past only Beijing Foreign Studies University, Communication University of China and Shanghai International Studies University offered the major. In the recent two years, Sichuan International Studies University and Tianjin Foreign Studies University have also started to offer it. In addition, Sichuan International Studies University cooperates with the University of Roland to train minority language talents of the “Belt and Road”. Students further their studies in Hungary for three years after studying in China for one year. It is foreseeable that in the future these talents with such bilingual competence and corresponding quality will be much-needed.

(Story by Gao Jianghong, 21st Century Business Herald, Page 4, December 1st, 2017)


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