Confucius Institutes Flourishing Worldwide
   2006-08-11 10:29:18
Some of you may have had of the Confucius Institutes, named for the famous Chinese thinker who's come to represent traditional Chinese culture in the eyes of so many people around the world.

But the Confucius Institutes don't teach traditional Confucian thinking.

Like Germany's Goethe Institutes, Spain's Cervantes Institutes and Italy's Dante Institutes, they're non-profit centers that aim to promote Chinese culture and language around the world.

While the first Confucius Institutes were only established two years ago, dozens have since popped up in cities all around the globe.

Chinese language classes are very popular at the Confucius Institute in South Korea.

Set up in 2004, it was the first Confucius Institute in the world and more than 400 people study there today.

Kim Ki Cheol is one of them. He says he started going to the Institute for fun, but the classes turned out to be very useful.

"I have been learning Chinese for two years. Since I started learning it, I have become more interested in the Chinese culture.

China is big and full of opportunities. If I can speak Chinese, it will be much easier for me to find a job or do business in China."

Kim says that people had to go to China if they wanted to learn Chinese in the past, but now all they have to do is step outside their front door.

Today, people around the world are starting to feel the same way.

At the first Confucius Institute Conference in Beijing in July, Chinese State Councilor Chen Zhili said the Institutes are spreading all over the globe.

"At the moment, there are already 80 Confucius Institutes and classes in 36 countries and regions. Establishing Confucius Institutes can help satisfy the surging overseas demand for Chinese-language learning. It can also promote economic and cultural exchanges, as well as deeper cooperation between China and other countries."

Chinese is a very complicated language, especially for western students who usually struggle with the tones and written characters. For a long time, this stopped the Chinese language from becoming popular around the world.

But things have been changing in recent years as China has progressively opened up to the world and achieved rapid economic development.

More and more foreign enterprises are investing and doing business in the country. More and more foreigners are working or traveling here. Many Chinese are studying, conducting business and traveling around the world at the same time.

As a result, many foreigners feel the need to learn the language so they can communicate with Chinese people and get to know the country better.

Chinese is now one of the world's most popular foreign languages, with around 30 million people learning Chinese as a second language around the world.

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