“We Love China”——A Visit to Confucius Institute at University of Johannesburg

[Source]    People’s Daily [Time]    2018-07-19 09:14:45 

A single tree-shaded villa stands in the vicinity of Auckland Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. Walking into the scarlet iron gate and through the yard, the journalists saw a red-roofed building with two red lanterns hung in front of the door. Welcome to the Confucius Institute at University of Johannesburg.

“Hello!” said a girl while waving at us, to which, we reacted: “What’s your name?” “My name is Wei Zhen. In Chinese, Wei means ‘only’, and Zhen ‘reality’.” The Zimbabwean girl is now a student of the biochemistry department of the Confucius Institute.

Wei Zhen said she began learning Chinese only half a year ago, and was passionate about Chinese so much that she spent time learning it whenever she had a spare moment every day. Furthermore, she won the third prize in the final in South Africa of the "Chinese Bridge" Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign University Students held this May.

In a short distance, several local students stood in line practicing martial arts guided by a Chinese teacher. At that moment, it was drizzling, but the students kept on their training as if unaffected.

Co-founded by University of Johannesburg and Nanjing Tech University, the Confucius Institute at University of Johannesburg is the first of its kind in the city. It started enrolling students in 2015, with the number of registered students exceeding 1,000 now.

David Monyae, Foreign Director of the Institute, said that its founding aims at not only improving the Chinese language proficiency for students in South Africa, but deepening locals’ understanding of Chinese culture in the process. Apart from teaching Chinese, the Institute also offers traditional Chinese culture courses such as Tea Ceremony, Calligraphy and Tai Chi. “As South Africa-China relations develop and our economic and trade cooperation grows increasingly closer, we also offer courses such as General Chinese, Business Chinese and Tourism Chinese,” he said. It is known that the Confucius Institute has offered 30 practical Chinese classes this term, almost twice as many as that of the same period last year. Besides local residents, many overseas Chinese with inadequate Chinese proficiency also sign up for the courses.

“China’s comprehensive national strength is growing and China is opening wider to the outside world, creating no better time for career development stemmed from Chinese learning in South Africa. It also contributes greatly to the increasing number of students who opt to learn Chinese,” Monyae said.

Chinese learning is gaining popularity in South Africa. Besides the Confucius Institute at University of Johannesburg, more Confucius Institutes are currently in operation at Stellenbosch University, University of Cape Town, Rhodes University and Durban University of Technology. Confucius classrooms are also opened at The Cape Academy of Mathematics, Science and Technology, Westerford High School, and Chinese Culture and International Education Exchange Center. The Department of Basic Education in South Africa announced that Chinese is integrated in the syllabus of second language teaching in South African schools. Chinese language courses have gradually been offered at local primary and middle schools.

Friendship, which derives from close contact between the people, holds the key to sound state-to-state relations. Language serves as an important bridge for people-to-people exchanges. Wei Zhen said that she wholeheartedly agreed on a line in the Chinese textbook provided by the Confucius Institute, which reads “Chinese people are our good friends, and we love China.”

(Story by Guan Kejiang and Li Yingyan, People’s Daily, Page 5, July 14th, 2018)

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