From the Readers

Chinese opportunity for US

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-06-30 07:53
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In an effort to promote its language and culture, China is funding Chinese education programs in the US.

The US should embrace this opportunity to learn more about its largest creditor, second biggest trading partner, and one of its biggest competitors.

Funding from the Chinese Ministry of Education supports programs such as the Confucius Institute and the Confucius Classroom in which US students receive Chinese-language instructions and learn about Chinese culture.

Hanban, a public institution affiliated to the Ministry of Education, is sending teachers from China to US schools and subsidizing their salaries. US school districts pay the rest.

Hanban is also subsidizing travel costs to sponsor US educators' visit to schools in China with the hope that they will start the Chinese education programs upon their return.

The Chinese education programs benefit Americans in several ways.

First, as the economies and national security issues of China and the US become increasingly interdependent, it becomes more and more critical that the two nations understand each other. It would be in America's best interest to cultivate more diplomats and business people who understand the Chinese language and culture.

Second, at a time when cash-strapped schools are cutting foreign language classes, Beijing's offer to subsidize part of the cost is too good to refuse. The Chinese education programs provide students with language instruction they would otherwise not receive.

Third, language learning provides many benefits beyond the ability to communicate in another language.

It has a positive effect on intellectual growth, academic achievement, and attitude toward other cultures.

Fourth, China's emergence as an important country means that job opportunities will abound for those who understand the Chinese language and culture.

Chinese is the most widely spoken first language in the world.

There are more than three times as many native speakers of Chinese than of English. The Chinese education programs may be one of the most valuable imports the US receives.

Bill Costello, via e-mail

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(China Daily 06/30/2010 page9)