Opening Door for Communication by Telling China’s Stories

[Source]    People's Daily Overseas Edition [Time]    2018-07-05 13:09:17 

On June 5th, 2018, Teng Jing, Foreign Director of the Confucius Institute in New Brunswick, Canada, received the Certificate of Outstanding Contribution from the Deputy Minister of Education of New Brunswick.

Teng Jing has witnessed and promoted the Chinese learning of the students, whose number has increased from 14 to more than 5,000 since the inception of the Institute in 2007.

Statistics shows that by the end of 2017, 525 Confucius Institutes and 1,113 Confucius Classrooms had been established in 146 countries and regions, with a total of 9.16 million students. Teng Jing and other foreign directors have played a unique role in promoting the establishment and rapid development of those Confucius Institutes.

Presenting a Real Image of China to the World

In 2007, 14 students came to learn Chinese at the Confucius Institute in New Brunswick, among whom 9 from Bernice High School and 5 from Riverview High School. Looking back, Teng Jing still remembers that she was then in charge of both Chinese teaching and management of the Institute. “Even If you want to call on some principals to get their course curriculum, it is impossible due to the shortage of staff members, and the pressure at that time was really great,” she said. However, she “never thought about giving up”.

What moved Teng Jing most was that her students, at the end of the first semester, gave her a glass ball, a famous local product, to express their love for her Chinese lessons. After a few semesters, the Confucius Institute received a letter from a student in a high school Chinese class, saying that “The Chinese class has changed my views on China. In the past, I had some misunderstandings about and prejudice against China, but now I am more willing to know about China after taking Ms. Teng’s Chinese class.”

Teng Jing (1st from left) and her students

"Wanting to know about China" was the reason for most students to learn Chinese at that time. “More and more people want to know about China and the Confucius Institute is a bridge for them to approach China,” said Teng Jing.

In 2013, Roger Lord, a Canadian pianist, went to the Confucius Institute at New Brunswick to take night Chinese classes for office workers, which aroused his interest in learning Chinese. “Language and culture complement each other. I want to know more about the connotation of Chinese music, so I think I must know Chinese. However, after learning Chinese, I am fascinated by the Chinese culture.” Since then, Lord praises the Confucius Institute wherever he gives his performance. “I’m a member of the Confucius Institute. The teachers there are warm-hearted and friendly and have helped me a lot.”

Besides Roger Lord, other people also fell in love with Chinese. For instance, government officials in Ottawa actively participates in Chinese language projects after learning Chinese; the judges of the Supreme Court of New Brunswickstill persist in taking the evening Chinese classes despite their busy work; the owners of fishing grounds in New Brunswick, after taking Chinese courses, have begun to recruit Chinese workers and developed business with Chinese companies.... Teng Jing’s “popularity” in the local area is growing as the number of her students is increasing.

Once when she went to see a dentist, the dentist suddenly asked her, “Are you TJ who teaches Chinese?" It turned out that the dentist’s daughter used to be a Chinese student at the Confucius Institute and she often talked about Chinese acupuncture and once visited China with a delegation.

Developing Friendship between China and Other Countries

Teng Jing is not alone in promoting other peoples' understanding about the Chinese language and culture, and developing the friendly relations between China and other countries in the world.

At the 11th Global Confucius Institute Conference, Professor Peteris Pildegovics, founder of the Confucius Institute at the University of Latvia, was awarded the title of “Global Confucius Institute Advanced Individuals”.

In 1949, Peteris Pildegovics was an 11-year-old boy eager to explore the unknown future world. “On October 1, 1949, my father told me that a new country, the People's Republic of China, was founded. I had never thought that I would have a close relationship with China, and now China has become my ‘second hometown’.”

Peteris Pildegovics studied Chinese at Lomonosov Moscow State University in 1960s. After graduation, he taught at the Chinese department in a university. After that, he worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, and then traveled to China... Along the way, he has made every effort to spread the Chinese language and enhance the friendship between China and Latvia. He has also cultivated generations of sinology professionals for Latvia.

In 2004, Peteris Pildegovics returned to University of Latvia and continued to teach Chinese. As a forerunner of Chinese teaching in Latvia, he actively ran for the establishment of the Confucius Institute in Latvia while he was continuing to develop and expand the Chinese teaching at the University of Latvia and in the whole country. Thanks to his unremitting efforts, the Confucius Institute at the University of Latvia was officially established in 2011. Up to now, it is the only Confucius Institute in Latvia. Peteris Pildegovics, in his 70s, was appointed as the foreign director. He was dedicated to the development of the Confucius Institute in almost all aspects ranging from site application, student recruitment and the organization of activities. The institute has seen continuous expansion of its scale in recent years because of his efforts.

The Confucius Classroom under the Confucius Institute at the University of Latvia

“Although I’m nearly 80 years old, I will continue to do my bit to the cultural exchanges between China and Latvia!” Peteris Pildegovics said.

Building a Bridge for Communication

For the foreign directors of the Confucius Institutes, it is their responsibility to promote friendly exchanges between China and the host country. Qi Mudi, Foreign Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, likens the work he undertakes to the building of a bridge for communication.

“I have the responsibility to ensure smooth communication between the Chinese director, volunteer Chinese teachers and the local community. During the whole process, understanding and inclusiveness are very important,” said Qi Mudi.

Guided by such vision, the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos in Nigeria has developed rapidly. Statistics show that at the end of 2017, the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos had more than 5,000 students and 18 teaching locations including primary schools, secondary schools, and universities (excluding the University of Lagos). “We also hope to establish another teaching location at the largest commercial center in Lagos,” said Qi Mudi.

According to Qi Mudi, the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos actively promotes the localization of Chinese language teaching and provides local Chinese teachers with Chinese language training. “After graduation, trainees can teach Chinese, and they can also work in local Chinese-funded enterprises.”

In addition, the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos also actively organizes various seminars and related exhibitions to promote China-Nigeria exchanges, and organizes summer camps to promote exchanges between young Nigerians and Chinese peers.

Site of “Chinese Bridge” Competition for Foreign Secondary School Students in Nigeria

In 2009, the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos began its operation. Speaking of the start-up process, Qi Mudi admitted that “he didn’t have a comprehensive understanding of the Confucius Institute at that time.” “As time passes, the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos has played an important role in building a bridge between the Chinese and Nigerian people by promoting the Chinese language and enhancing cultural exchanges as well as scientific and technological cooperation between China and Nigeria.

“We hope to build a center Chinese culture experience center at the University of Lagos.” This is Qi Mudi’s wish.

(Du Juan, a volunteer Chinese teacher at the Confucius Institute in New Brunswick, Canada, also contributed to this article.)

(Story by Zhao Xiaoxia, People's Daily Overseas Edition, Page 11, July 2nd, 2018)

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