Confucius Institutes Discuss Challenges, Solutions on UMass Boston Campus
September 04, 2012
Office of Communications
UMass Boston Hosts Renmin University and 11 Confucius Institutes
Helsinki University’s Anja Lahtinen faces the challenge of teaching Chinese in a country where students already have to learn English. Liming Wang struggles to find his place within a large university. Mayra Achio is working in a country that had no diplomatic relations with China until five years ago.
All three are directors of Confucius Institutes—nonprofit public institutions designed to promote Chinese language and culture. All three had a chance to share their challenges and get ideas from their peers Wednesday as the University of Massachusetts Confucius Institute at UMass Boston hosted a first-of-its-kind conference of representatives from Renmin University and 11 of its Confucius Institutes.
The first Confucius Institute, was created in 2004. Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council International, pairs each of the 358 institutes in the United States, Europe, and Central America with a Chinese university. The UMass Boston chapter is the only Confucius Institute in Massachusetts.
Mayra Achio, director of the Confucius Institute at Universidad de Costa Rica, says although there have been brief meetings in Beijing of all 358 Confucius Institutes, the meeting at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on the UMass Boston campus marked the first time directors have been able to meet in an intimate setting.
“We needed more meaningful time [together]—-sharing and discussing our experiences. We can learn from what others have done. We can learn from others how to do it better,” Achio said.
“It’s important to think [about Confucius Institutes] in the long term,” added Liming Wang, director of the Confucius Institute and the Institute for Chinese Studies at University College Dublin.
John Cunningham, vice president for academic affairs, student affairs, and international relations for the UMass system, said the conference provided a stronger focus than previous meetings.
“It’s more intentional, more detailed. It [provides] an important connection for Boston and potentially other [UMass] campuses,” Cunningham said.
Marcellette Gaillard-Gay Williams, the senior vice president for academic and student affairs and international relations at the University of Massachusetts, agrees the idea to bring in Renmin University’s partners was a good one.
“When you put people in close proximity with like minds and like goals, the questions become more interesting and the solutions better. We believe in this partnership with Renmin,” Williams said in her welcoming remarks. “Together we can accomplish more than in isolation.”
Since its founding in 2006, the University of Massachusetts Confucius Institute has hosted Chinese bridge speech contests for high school and college students, sent more than 150 students to China through the China Today program based out of University College, and held Chinese language classes for the UMass Boston community.
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