There is much to be done to spread the Chinese culture as the country's growing international influence drives global demand to learn more about it, a senior Chinese official said on Monday.
"Achievements are noticeable in the promotion of Chinese language and culture. However, we need to recognize that there is yet a lot to be done," said Xu Lin, director of National Office of the Directive Group for the External Promotion of the Chinese Language (Hanban, as it is known in China) and director of Confucius Institute Headquarters, in an interview with Xinhua.
Xu is here for the Second Congress of Confucius Institutes in Ibero America, which ends on Monday. During the congress experts from China and 10 Spanish-speaking countries discussed how to optimize the teaching of Chinese language overseas.
Xu said while the Chinese people were modest and reluctant to show off, the demand to learn the Chinese language and culture in foreign countries had been so strong in recent years the country was obliged to reveal its millennium culture to the world.
Confucius Institutes had been established worldwide to fulfil this task.
The Confucius Institute is a non-profit social welfare institution aimed at expanding the teaching of the Chinese language and introducing Chinese arts, music, philosophy to the local society, Xu said.
By end of May, more than 300 Confucius Institutes had been founded in more than 90 countries and regions along with more than 300 Confucius Classrooms. A total of 40 million students outside China were receiving lessons.
In Latin America, Spain and Portugal, despite the geographical distance, there had been a fervor for learning Chinese in recent years. In Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Portugal and Spain, 25 institutes were giving classes to tens of thousands of people.
Apart from the language teaching, one of the most important missions of Confucius Institutes is to spread China's cultural influence, by organizing cultural events showcasing Chinese music, theater, movies, folklore, martial arts, medicine and philosophy.
These events allowed local people to understand what China represented besides its economic numbers, Xu said.
Unfortunately, there were not enough qualified teachers who could teach in the local languages of their host countries. As well, there had also been a lack of teaching materials tailored to the needs of individual countries, Xu said.
Xu said Hanban had launched a scholarship program to train foreign learners of Chinese in China, so they could return to their countries as qualified teachers.
In addition, Confucius Institutes in each country or region were seeking to train Chinese immigrants or Chinese descendants, who know both languages and only need to learn the teaching methods.
To work as a Chinese teacher overseas was a hard job. One could not expect to make a fortune or fame but it was a noble and significant cause, Xu said, adding she felt content and happy to be a messenger to spread the Chinese culture to the world.
Like Xu, many of her colleagues in Hanban work an average of 12 hours or even more every day. But with more and more people learning Chinese and getting to know the Chinese culture better, "it's worth it," she said.