Feature: Confucius Institute witnesses decade of closer China-Argentina ties

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-30 20:34:14|Editor: Li Xia
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BUENOS AIRES, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Patricio Conejero Ortiz was very delighted that there is a growing interest, especially among the young, in learning Chinese over recent years in Argentina.

The Argentine co-director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) said that the institute's enrollment confirmed such a trend.

"This year we were able to get 2,000 students enrolled in Chinese language courses at 14 levels, including 450 students in different extension courses on culture, calligraphy and economy, among others," Conejero said.

The Confucius Institute at the University of Buenos Aires was launched in 2009 and is preparing celebrations to mark its 10th anniversary. Many Argentines believe it represents the cultural part of the efforts to promote exchanges with China, helping lift Argentina-China relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2014.

"I believe the academic relationship maintained between the Chinese and Argentine institutions is fundamental for the development of bilateral relations," Conejero said.

His institute has since 2011 offered international examinations that certify Chinese language proficiency and granted scholarships for Argentine students to continue their studies in China.

In 2017, the exams were conducted on more sites to accommodate an increasing number of applicants.

"We offered 600 exams at different levels," said Conejero. "That number will likely be slightly higher this year."

The Confucius Institute and Argentine educational institutions, he said, are seeking to strengthen ties through a UBA-China program launched this year, which is designed to increase student and researcher exchange and to extend the collaboration to sports.

Argentina now hosts two Confucius Institutes, with the second launched in 2009 at the National University of La Plata (UNLP), some 60 km south of the Argentine capital, with affiliated classrooms in the country's southeast and central regions.

There are currently more than 50 Confucius Institutes and Classrooms in South America to offer Chinese language programs and other courses on Chinese culture.

Sergio Cesarin, a Confucius Institute lecturer, believes it's necessary to expand the network of Confucius education in South America, particularly in Argentina, so as to offer better opportunities for people to learn Chinese.

He also hailed the increase in the number of Confucius Institute scholarships for the Argentines.

"When I traveled to China, the Chinese side then only offered four scholarships ... Think of the number of Argentines who could be studying in China today," said Cesarin. "That is a very significant fact."

Resources of local Chinese language teachers are being developed in Argentina in order to meet a growing demand. A student of Chinese who gave her name as Leticia voiced the hope of becoming a Confucius Institute teacher.

"If I could make a living using the language, I would love it. I suppose giving classes to children or adults," said Leticia, who was initially drawn to Chinese because "it's not a Western language."

After traveling to five Chinese cities, she said she has become even more "intrigued" by the Chinese culture.