Confucius Institute bridges global language barrier

2019-09-23 08:49:30 China Daily Cheng Zizhuo
Students learn Chinese calligraphy during a cultural week in Ismailia, Eygpt, last year. (XINHUA/WU HUIWO)

Chinese culture promoted around the world

Park Kyung-na is proud of being the first person employed by the world's first Confucius Institute, a China-funded organization that promotes the country's language and culture globally.

Park vividly remembers the institute's official launch in Seoul, South Korea, in November 2004.

"The opening ceremony was full of joy and was attended by representatives from all sectors, from government officials to cultural figures," said Park, who is deputy director of the Confucius Institute in Seoul, or CIS.

"It took us almost a year to get everything ready. I was very excited about the role the Confucius Institute was going to play" in teaching the language and cultural exchanges, Park said.

"Over the past 15 years, CIS has developed in leaps and bounds, together with the rapid expansion of the whole Confucius Institutes global network," Park said. "The operation has become more systematic and we can now offer a lot more programs."

There are now 536 Confucius Institutes and 1,139 Confucius Classrooms in 157 countries, providing educational opportunities to some 11 million students.

CIS Director Lee Joon-sik said the ultimate goal is to help the people of the Republic of Korea to understand China better through language.

A fundamental mission of the institute is to popularize the Chinese language while enhancing communication between the ROK and China in education and culture, said Lee, who has led CIS since 2015.

After China and the Republic of Korea established diplomatic relations in 1992, Chinese-language education became increasingly popular in the country, leading to the formation of CIS in 2004.

With 23 in total, the ROK is now home to the most Confucius Institutes in Asia, according to the Confucius Institute Headquarters.

The Confucius Institute Headquarters said the centers are often situated at universities and schools.

A staff member from the Headquarters said: “The Confucius Institute has created a unique model of cooperation with local universities. Only when there is a need to learn Chinese somewhere and apply to us, will we build a Confucius Institute with local universities.”

Although the first Confucius Institute has helped people in the ROK to learn Chinese and be-come more familiar with Chinese culture, Koreans have a long history of using Chinese characters, as the Korean alphabet was only created in the mid-15th century. Today, many secondary schools in the ROK continue to offer Chinese lessons.

Lee said: “Koreans have been interested in Chinese culture since ancient times. The older generation, in particular, is familiar with important Chinese works such as the Analects of Confucius, classic novels like Romance of the Three Kingdoms and famous poets such as Li Bai and Du Fu.”


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