Chinese teachers mark progress

Updated: 2015-04-17 11:45

By DONG LESHUO and MAY ZHOU in Atlanta(China Daily USA)

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More than 1,400 people gathered in Atlanta to attend the largest annual gathering in the US of teachers, administrators and policymakers engaged in the teaching of Chinese language and culture.

The 2015 National Chinese Language Conference, organized by Asia Society and the College Board, sponsored by Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban), opened on April 16 in Atlanta.

There was much talk about the importance of learning the Chinese language.

"All of us have been doing our best to promote Chinese language in the US year by year," Xu Lin, chief executive and director-general of Hanban, said at the conference.

"Since 2005, we have been working with Asia Society and the College Board. Now is the 10th year. The three organizations are getting closer and closer, like a family," Xu Lin said.

Over the past decade, Hanban has sent 5,800 Chinese teachers and volunteers to the US and invited 22,000 American teachers and students to China. Now there are 107 Confucius Institutes in the US. Ten years ago there were 200 schools here offering Chinese language classes, now the number is 4,000, according to Xu Lin.

"Our work in Chinese language is a big part of the core mission of Asia Society," said Tom Nagorski, executive vice-president of Asia Society.

"Asia Society's mission is to increase mutual understanding between people of US and Asia. You can't build that bridge and understanding without building a relationship between people of the US and China, and you can't achieve that without building a bridge through Chinese culture and language," Nagorski said.

College Board has been helping students "in the tough practice and achieving excellence" in Chinese language learning, according to David Coleman, president and CEO of the College Board.

"There is something amazing about learning Chinese. To watch a student go from knowing nothing to fluency is magical and astonishing," said Coleman.

"Some people in the US ask question: Why do you want to influence us? I think a lot of people here understand the word ‘gratitude'," he added.

With about 1,400 participants registered, the theme of this year's Conference was "Pathways to Global Engagement".

"Some Chinese ask why we spend money in the US because you are already rich, and some people say we want to color the US red, just as the theme of the conference, language is a pathway to global engagement," Xu said.

"The theme of the conference is in line with the mission of NYU Shanghai," said Yu Lizhong, chancellor and chairman of the board of Shanghai New York University.

"We should give foreigners opportunities to learn Chinese and use this as a platform to understand China," Yu said. "It's more than learning a language. It's an attitude for future engagement with the world."

The conference will last until April 18. The major topics to be discussed include bridging the two sides through comedy and music, how to integrate the arts into Chinese language and humanities learning and best practices for teachers to promote Chinese programs.