Visiting China, Understanding China

[Source]    People’s Daily Overseas Edition [Time]    2018-08-22 09:05:13 

Raya Mateva, Deputy Mayor of Targovishte city of Bulgaria, still remembers the taste of Beijing roast duck even after returning home.“The taste of Beijing roast duck”, as she put, “is different from that in Bulgaria.” Mateva just concluded her first trip to China, during which she participated in the 2-week-long 2018 Chinese cultural training program of the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban). Thanks to this hands-on experience, she has formed a vivid picture of China in her mind. “China is developing very fast and Beijing is very beautiful,” she expressed on leaving.

Every year, Hanban organizes similar training programs, through which participants can visit China so as to gain a better understanding of the country.

Improving Chinese Language Teaching Skills

According to a relevant responsible person of Hanban, training programs held by Hanban in China include Overseas Chinese Teachers’ Training Program in China, the Confucius China Studies Program and others.

Among them, traditional programs such as Overseas Chinese Teachers’ Training Program in China were established in 2001, in response to the urgent demand for Chinese language teachers in many countries as a result of the widespread “Chinese Craze” across the globe.

A relevant official of Hanban’s Division of Teachers said, “This program is mainly aimed at subsidizing overseas Chinese teachers all over the world for their professional development and also improving the quality of their Chinese teaching. The training courses generally last for 1 to 4 weeks, including Chinese knowledge, Chinese teaching skills, practical Chinese teaching methods, Chinese cultural performance and Chinese cultural experience.” Up to now, nearly 20,000 foreign teachers of universities, colleges and schools from 106 countries have participated in.

Members of a delegation under the Overseas Chinese Teachers’ Training Program in China learning paper cutting

Chen Lili, a Post 90’s Thai girl, is one member of the delegation. She participated in the Overseas Chinese Teachers’ Training Program in China for local Chinese language teachers of primary and secondary schools in Thailand, which started in this April. As the only Chinese language teacher in Guguo school in Thailand, Chen Lili gives 22 Chinese language lessons a week. On top of that, she also compiles Chinese language textbooks for secondary school students, and designs the character exercises notebooks. It is no exaggeration to say that she has played a pivotal role in Chinese language teaching in her school.

Chen, who has been a Chinese language teacher for several years, feels lucky for her opportunity to go to China for training. She said, “More importantly, I have honed my Chinese language teaching level and gained new teaching ideas.”

More than 40 Thai teachers from 24 cities have participated in the training program together with Chen. Although they have been working as teachers for many years, it was the first time for them to receive such training. According to them, “This training has helped us understand Chinese culture and figure out how to make Chinese language classes more interesting. It also helps to promote cultural exchanges”. There is no doubt that all participants have reaped various fruits from the training.

Traditional Programs Booming Changes

The Overseas Chinese Teachers’ Training Program in China, which has been established for more than a decade, enjoys an ever expanding influence and has delivered wonderful results. It has contributed to the development of Chinese language teaching in foreign primary and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities, and also promoted the sustainable development of Confucius Institutes. It has enabled foreign Chinese language teachers to spread Chinese culture in a more active, vivid and effective way with their deeper understanding of China, which has enhanced foreign students’ understanding of China and strengthened cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries.

In July 2016, 22 African native Chinese language teachers went to China for training of Chinese language teaching. The training courses focused on three aspects, namely, Chinese language proficiency, the method of teaching Chinese as a second language, as well as Chinese culture learning and experience.

Members of a delegation under the Overseas Chinese Teachers’ Training Program in China presenting their traditional Chinese paintings

After the training, learning barriers such as teaching Chinese pinyin and grammar, which have long frustrated Chinese language teachers, are no longer roadblocks for Li Yueru, a participant of this training program. “These much-needed teaching methods are innovative and interesting and are just like the timely rain after a long dry spell for teachers. I hope that I can make full use of these new teaching methods after returning to my country.” All participants’ dreams are on the right track to become reality.

As the worldwide “Chinese Craze” continues to gain traction, the requirements for overseas Chinese language teachers are constantly changing, and the Overseas Chinese Teachers’ Training Program in China ever evolving. During the summer vacation this year, Hanban plans to launch 30 training classes for foreign Chinese language teachers and there are 987 foreign Chinese teachers from 52 countries receiving training in China.

A relevant official of the Hanban’s Division of Teachers said, “Compared with programs in previous years, this year’s program has three new characteristics: The first being an addition of traditional Chinese cultural classes, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine class and other special classes; the second is an increase in the number of overseas Chinese teachers from the participating countries of the Belt and Road Initiative in the program, which accounted for 63% of the total number of trainees; the third is more support for the local Chinese language teachers of Confucius Institutes to receive training in China, so as to fully tap into the potential of Confucius Institutes as training centers for local Chinese language teachers.”

Understanding China from Different Angles

An overseas delegation under the “Confucius China Studies Program-Young Leaders Fellowship” (art program) was co-held by Shanghai Jiaotong University and the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai (MOCA Shanghai). Its daily training activities include designing and arranging a modern art exhibition entitled “Take Action” together with Chinese colleagues, transforming old articles into art pieces for exhibition, visiting schools for the speech and listening-impaired and so on.

Members of this delegation come from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Saint Petersburg State University (SPBU). The study tour will last for half a year, during which they will learn Chinese language, and participate in exhibition design, public project planning and other activities in Chinese art galleries and museums.

Members of the delegation under the 2018 Confucius China Studies Program-Young Leaders Fellowship (art program) taking internships at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Allison Chaklos and Zo Shay, both from the United States (US), compiled a catalogue containing nearly 200 related items during their training at the Museum of Oriental Musical Instruments, enabling people from all over the world to directly learn about traditional Chinese folk music through the Internet.

According to a relevant official of Hanban’s Division of Sinology and China Studies, the Confucius China Studies Program launched by Hanban consists of six subprograms in the academic areas of Humanities and Social Sciences. Different from traditional training programs centering on Chinese language teaching, the Confucius China Studies Program is dedicated to providing overseas students and scholars who are engaged in China studies with opportunities to conduct research and study in China, while also helping foreign people interested in China to understand it from different angles and fields. He said, “This year’s program mainly includes projects pertaining to art, laws, philosophy, music, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

The data shows that since the implementation of the Confucius China Studies Program, Hanban has conducted in-depth cooperation with Sinology and China studies institutions in 92 countries. Nearly 2,000 people have benefited from this program, which has funded more than 500 young scholars to study for degrees or receive training in China, as well as more than 700 young leaders and elites of various walks of life to visit China.

Gaining “Chinese experience”

Be it the traditional Overseas Chinese Teachers’ Training Program in China or the “Confucius New Sinology” Program, the biggest benefit of these programs for the participants is the valuable “Chinese experience”.

Jennifer, a member of the Missouri elite youth delegation to China, said, “We discussed ‘how American youths view China’ in our classroom activities. But when I came to Beijing, I saw it with my own eyes. I think China is so amazing, completely different from what I thought before, and also different from what I read in American textbooks.”

James, head of the delegation, said: “Before I came here, I thought China was a country much different from the US and full of exotic oriental flavors. After visiting China, I think China has tremendous potential to become a powerful country in the 21st century. In my opinion, this is also the purpose of the trip for this delegation - to let Americans better understand China.”

Laura, a Doctor of Law from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the US, after completing her comparative study of Chinese and American laws under the Confucius China Studies Program-Young Leaders Fellowship, finished a paper entitled A Comparative Study of the Chinese and American Property Laws, in which she put forward her own point of view—It is the reality that shapes different laws of China and the US that are in line with their respective social systems, and Chinese laws are more conducive to China’s future development.

The delegation for a comparative study of Chinese and American laws under 2018 Confucius China Studies Program-Young Leaders Fellowship participating in relevant activities

Susan, initiator of the Confucius China Studies Program-Young Leaders Fellowship (art program), and Foreign Director of the Confucius Institute at UCLA, talked about the benefit from a more macro perspective. She expressed that this project not only presents an opportunity for young people of the arts field in the US to understand China and broaden their horizons of artistic research and creation, but also cultivates and reserves a talent pool for future China-US art exchange programs.

It is worth mentioning that the EU officials visited other parts of China other than Beijing for the first time in their six study visits to China. They visited Yangling Agricultural Hi-tech Industries Demonstration Zone, Shaanxi Provincial Highway Bureau (SPHB) and Xi’an Peihua University.

“At Yangling Agricultural Hi-tech Industries Demonstration Zone, members walked through the fields and grape greenhouses. A member of the delegation even borrowed an electric bicycle from a local farmer, which left a deep impression on me,” Zhang Ke, Deputy Director of Hanban’s Division of Sinology and China Studies said, “This is also the highlight and innovation of this project.”

(Story by Zhao Xiaoxia, People’s Daily Overseas Edition, Page 9, August 17th, 2018)

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