left corner left corner
China Daily Website

US action self-defeating

Updated: 2012-05-25 07:54
( China Daily)

Ten times more Chinese students come to the US to study than US students come to study in China, and 600 times more Chinese study the English language than Americans study Mandarin.

But the number of Americans studying Chinese will be even smaller after the US Department of State sent out a policy directive on May 17 to US universities sponsoring Confucius Institutes.

The new policy declares that Chinese academics teaching grade school levels at institutes without proper accreditation are violating the terms of their visas and must leave the country at the end of June.

Among those who will be expelled from the US are those Chinese teachers who helped solicit the American teachers and students of the state department's "10,000 Strong" initiative, which was launched to dramatically increase the number and diversity of American students studying in China.

It is strange that the accreditation has only now become a problem.

In the US, there are 64 Confucius Institutes in 37 states, the first of which was established at the University of Maryland in 2005. Most partners in the US are institutions of higher learning, but there are also Confucius Institutes at district schools and community organizations. They are primarily engaged in supporting the study of Mandarin, but they also sometimes handle the training of Chinese language teachers.

The visa problems encountered when bringing teachers over from China have caused a shortage of Chinese instructors. But the Confucius classroom program offers a way to make Chinese language lessons more widely available in US schools.

Alarmed at its shortage of Chinese language speakers, the US is trying a pilot project of its own in the state of Oregon, funding an integrated chain of Chinese language classes from kindergarten to university.

Given that China and the US are working so closely and the relationship is growing, it is very important for the two peoples to know more of each other's language.

But some in the US have a lingering Cold War mentality and allege the Confucius Institutes will corrupt American minds.

Language is the doorway to culture. Culture is the doorway to language. One door doesn't replace the other and both should be held open.

(China Daily 05/25/2012 page8)