Confucius Institute at University of Panama Embraces “Chinese Language Craze”

[Source]    chinanews.com [Time]    2018-12-07 17:50:30 
 


A teacher coaching a student at a classroom in Confucius Institute at University of Panama, November 22nd

“Are you Chinese? Welcome to Panama”, said Edison, a staff member of the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. Though not fluent in Chinese, he started chatting with the journalist who just arrived.

Edison has been to China and studied Chinese for two months in the Confucius Institute at University of Panama now. He said his love for China motivates him to learn the Chinese.

In the middle of September, 2017, the Confucius Institute at the University of Panama, co-established by the University of Panama and Beijing International Studies University was inaugurated after three months since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Panama. After a period of preparation, this Confucius Institute officially opened classes in June this year.

“We’ve been planning to establish a Confucius Institute in Panama for over a decade. I thought we could round it off after opening classes, yet I did not expect such enthusiasm from all walks of life for learning Chinese. It adds a lot of pressure on us”, said Wu Junhui, Foreign Director of the Confucius Institute at University of Panama.


Wu Junhui (middle) discussing teaching work with Li Junfen (right) and Pan Jing, teachers of the Confucius Institute at University of Panama, November 22nd

At the request of various parties, currently the Confucius Institute at the University of Panama has established teaching sites in the International Maritime University of Panama and the Specialized University of the Americas in Panama. A private middle school in Panama proposed cooperation and to list Chinese as the third compulsory learning language except Spanish and English.

Wu Junhui pointed out that the exchanges between China and Panama are increasing. Last November, Panama became one of the destinations for Chinese tour groups, bringing stronger demand of Chinese language learning. There are already over 400 registered students since classes were opened. Yet there are only two full-time teachers and three volunteers in the institute. Obviously, teachers are urgently needed here.

According to Li Junfen, a teacher in the Confucius Institute at the University of Panama, there are elementary class, intermediate class, tourism-oriented class and class for children. Focusing on practicality, teachers have been integrating vocabulary into study since students began to learn pronunciation, during which students can grasp basic daily expressions, thus having the sense of accomplishment more easily.

Currently, the Confucius Institute at the University of Panama also has classes of martial arts, calligraphy and Tai Chi so as to provide an easy access to Chinese culture for local citizens. When the journalist visited the institute late November, a Chinese landscape painting by a young Chinese Panamanian painter was exhibited here.

The journalist met Gunisson, who came here studying after work. Gunisson said he worked in a company where he constantly needed to communicate with Chinese colleagues and clients, making him want to further the Chinese learning and improve his Chinese proficiency.

The teachers in the institute said that students here come from all walks of life, and some of them are even in 60s studying with their families. Li Junfen, experienced in years of teaching overseas, believed that the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Panama has a direct bearing on the increasing enthusiasm of Chinese language learning.

During the earlier preparation of the Confucius Institute at University of Panama, Orlando Moscoso, Vice President of the University of Panama, joked that he also wanted to be a student in this Confucius Institute and learn Chinese language and Chinese culture.


Gunisson, a student of the Confucius Institute at University of Panama, studying at the institute after work, November 22nd

“China’s development has not only grabbed the world’s attention, but also brought the “Chinese language craze”, said Wu Junhui. Nowadays, Panamanian people come to know the real China through more and more media reports and show positive feelings towards the country.

There are many non-Chinese students in the Confucius Institute at University of Panama, as well as quite a few students are Chinese descent. Teacher Pan Jing said that the major reason why they are studying Chinese is to find their roots.

Zhong Wei’er, a student of the Confucius Institute at University of Panama, is a Chinese descent. The journalist ran into him in a photo exhibition. He said that he barely knew his grandfather who came from Guangdong Province in China, and he was looking forward to visiting the place where his grandfather was born.

As a Chinese language learner for almost four years, although Zhong Wei’er has never been to China before, he already has a picture of his ancestral home in his mind: time-honored culture and diligent people with dedication. He thinks that cultural exchanges have played a significant role in the relations between the two countries: “China has rich cultural resources, and Panama also has many beautiful and fun things to share with China”.

(Story and photos by Yu Ruidong, China News Service, Panama City, December 3rd)

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