China’s Confucius Institute is playing a major role in popularising Chinese language in Pakistan and promoting people to people contacts, sources said here on Friday.
According to the Institute’s sources, some of the educational institutions in Pakistan’s major cities are running well the Confucius Institute and hoping more will be coming up in the next few months.
In countries including Pakistan, Cambodia, and Bangladesh have shown particular interest in blending language skills with future Belt and Road projects
Confucius Institutes take Chinese language and culture to a global audience eager to learn more about the country
The opening lines of The Analects, one of China’s most famous historic texts, read: “Is it not a pleasure to study and practice what you learn? Is it not good when friends visit from far-off places?”
More than 2,000 years after they were written, the aphorisms of its author – the Chinese sage Confucius – might well refer to China’s rising language centres.
In a mere 12 years, Confucius Institutes have opened on 500 campuses and are now teaching Chinese language and culture to almost 2 million people.
Attached to foreign universities, the Confucius Institutes – overseen by the Office of Chinese Language Council International, or Hanban – are a network of not-for-profit Mandarin language teaching schools and cultural centres for those who seek to learn about China.
The first institute opened its doors in Seoul in 2004. By the following year, there were 33 in operation. Today there are more than 500, spread across more than 134 countries and on every continent apart from Antarctica.
One of the reasons for the institutes’ current popularity, says Chu Hung-lam, director of Hong Kong’s own Confucius Institute, is that China is genuinely interested in getting people to learn firsthand about its unique – often misunderstood – culture.
“China wants to tell and show herself and be understood,” explains Chu, who is also head of the Chinese culture department at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
As well as offering Chinese courses to the general public, the institute provides tailored language classes to a range of would-be Mandarin speakers, including undergraduates and university staff, businesspeople and government officials.
The Chinese economy is driving global interest in Mandarin, placing the Confucius Institute network in an enviable position. Thanks to China’s economic clout and expanding diplomatic links with the 60-plus countries included in the Belt and Road Initiative, there is little work needed to promote the language.
Xu Tao, director of international cooperation and exchanges at the Ministry of Education, says: “We help people in countries along the Belt and Road learn Chinese and these countries help us learn their languages.”
However, the reality is that the majority of Confucius Institutes are currently located in only a handful of countries. More than 100, for instance, are in the United States, and more than two dozen in the United Kingdom.
It is unlikely that China’s economic power, on its own, can maintain a deep, widespread interest in learning a second language, says Molly Huang, who teaches Mandarin in South China’s Guangdong province and Hong Kong. Instead, she says that first and foremost, language is entwined with culture.