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Confucius Institutes get new Latin American hub

Updated: 2014-05-13 11:23
By Zhang Fan in Santiago ( China Daily USA)

Confucius Institutes get new Latin American hub

Attending the Confucius Institute launch ceremony were, from left: Jaime Vatter, president of the University of Santo Tomas; Chinese Ambassador to Chile Yang Wanming; director general of Hanban Xu Lin; former president of Chile Eduardo Frei; and mayor of Vina del Mar Virginia Reginato. Zhang Fan / China Daily

The Confucius Institutes Latin American Regional Center will serve as a normative platform to enhance the communication and cooperation between all Confucius Institutes across the region, said Xu Lin, director general of the office of the Chinese Language Council International, at the launch ceremony for the center on Monday in Chile.

Chinese Ambassador to Chile Yang Wanming praised Confucius Institutes for improving the mutual understanding and friendship between China and Chile.

"Choosing Chile to establish the Latin American Center shows the Chinese government deeply appreciates the achievements made by Chile especially in cultural communication between the two countries," said Yang at the ceremony.

Yang's sentiments were echoed by Chile's former president Eduardo Frei, who said the regional center in Latin America was a "new milestone" in the Sino-Chilean relationship.

It is the second regional center for Confucius Institutes worldwide after the first one was established in Washington last year.

"The reason why we decided to build the second regional center in Latin America is because we realized the passion of local people to learn Chinese," Xu said. "During my short stay here, I have already met several people who told me that they are learning Chinese by themselves. People are getting more interested in China because of our closer relations."

According to Xu, who is also the chief executive of Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing, the Latin American Regional Center is to "support" but not to "lead" local Confucius Institutes.

"The main purpose of establishing the center is to provide local Confucius Institutes all kinds of assistance in a more efficient way," said Xu. "We also want to do some research to find out how many Chinese language teachers are needed."

The regional center in Latin America will be led by a central committee with Eduardo Frei, former president of Chile, serving as the first honorary chairman.

The 11-member committee consists of representatives from China, Brazil, Chile and Peru and the board will be reelected every three years.

The building of the center is provided by the University of Santo Thomas, which is also the first university in Latin America to cooperate with Hanban and launched the first Confucius Institute in Latin America in 2008.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Confucius Institute program. The Regional Center in Latin America is considered an important part of a series of celebrations for Confucius Institutes worldwide.

Hanban has established 446 Confucius Institutes and 665 Confucius Classrooms worldwide, with 26 institutes and 10 classrooms in 11 Latin American countries.

Currently there are almost 200 teachers serving in the Confucius Institutes in Latin America. Hanban has put forward various plans to attract more Chinese language teachers who can speak Spanish to join the team.

"We also provided about 30 scholarships for teachers and students from Latin American countries to learn Chinese language teaching in China. Meanwhile, we also encourage local Chinese Institutes to develop their own teaching materials, which can better fit local cultures," said Xu.