Chinese language conference to kick off

Updated: 2013-04-05 11:53

By Liu Yuhan in New York (China Daily)

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With more and more students learning the Chinese language in the United States, the 6th annual National Chinese Language Conference kicks off in Boston on Sunday.

The three-day event is North America's largest gathering of practitioners, policymakers and school leaders with an interest in Chinese teaching and learning. A key venue for bringing together educators from the world's two largest economies, it is sponsored by the Beijing headquarters of the Confucius Institute (also known as Hanban), the American College Board and the Asia Society.

Promoting the development of teaching the Chinese language in the US, the NCLC in the last five years has attracted more than 5,000 educational experts, government officials and Chinese teachers from more than 48 US states. Experts from Australia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore have also attended.

This year, the gathering is estimated to attract 1,200 people to more than 70 sessions and workshops. Attendees can listen to visionary speakers and thought leaders in the field of education and sign up for school visits to see local K-12 Chinese programs in action. Chinese language and culture experts will discuss an array of issues, such as equity and access to Chinese language education, as well as the future of education in China and the US.

"I think that Americans are increasingly realizing the interconnectedness between countries in a more globalized world, particularly between the US and China," said Lindsay Bennett, program manager at the Confucius Institute at New York's Pace University. "Savvier students understand and appreciate how learning a foreign language can only be an asset to them as they prepare to enter the real world," she said. Bennett, who began to study Chinese in the mid-1990s, will be among the participants in Boston.

"For my role, gaining further understanding of challenges and successes within Chinese language education can be helpful to my work," she said. "To see so many others in one place with a similar dedication to Chinese language education and furthering US-China understanding will be impressive."

Previous gatherings have been held in other major US cities, including Washington and San Francisco, drawing about 1,000 attendees each year.

Hanban has been promoting Chinese culture and the language by establishing Confucius institutes and Confucius classes worldwide. More than 80 US Confucius institutes have been established since the first school opened in Maryland in 2005. Hanban has since dispatched more than 2,100 teachers to the US.

Cui Tiankai, China's new ambassador to the US, said on Thursday that educational exchanges and communications between the two countries play a critical role in China-US relations.

Cui said the plethora of US Confucius institutes reflect the popularity of Chinese language education.

In 2009, the Obama administration acknowledged the importance of the US-China relationship by establishing the "100,000 Strong" initiative, which strives to increase the number of American students studying in China.

(China Daily 04/05/2013 page1)