CANBERRA, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- Listening to students reading textbooks here, one might feel like being in a Chinese primary school.
But the classroom was in Australian capital Canberra and the differences are obvious, some students have yellow hair and most of them appear older than their Chinese peers learning the same articles.
"In Australia more children are learning Chinese," said Li Fuxin, president of Chinese Language Teachers' Federation of Australia and principal of the Australian School of Contemporary Chinese.
According to Li, history of Mandarin teaching in Australia is as long as 61 years, with the earliest class started in 1958.
Chinese is now the most-spoken community language in Australia. A document provided by the Chinese embassy in Australia showed that more than 1,200 primary and middle schools offer Chinese language courses across the country, while about 4.6 percent of the students are learning Chinese.
Australia is home to 14 Confucius institutes, 67 Confucius classrooms and more than 130 Chinese language schools like the Australian School of Contemporary Chinese.
The Australian School of Contemporary Chinese was founded in 2003, when Li and some of his friends' children need to learn Mandarin. "At that time, most of the students were children of migrants from the Chinese mainland," he said.
Gradually more and more foreign students joined in the courses. "Currently between 10 to 15 percent of the 300 children here are without Chinese background," Li said.
Adrian Keating is a Year 3 student, who has a Chinese name An An. He writes about 100 Chinese characters a day after class. "I like Chinese culture and history," he said, adding that he visited China several times.
Hunter Sanchez's mother is Chinese. Also a Year 3 student studying Chinese in the school, he said he is keen to learn Chinese so as to know more about his mother and her country.
Li Fuxin told Xinhua that more students would like to learn Chinese because of China's fast development in recent years.
"China is now the biggest trading partner of Australia," he said. "Many parents want their children to learn Chinese for their future development."
Apart from children, the school also teaches more than 100 adults, most of whom work in governments or do business with Chinese enterprises, Li added.
"There are also some people with deep interest in Chinese culture, and they learn Chinese entirely for fun," he said.
He remembered teaching a man from local government. "He progressed quickly and after two years, he quit his job and went to China," Li recalled. Later he learned that the man became an English teacher in Beijing.
"The Confucius institutes and classrooms made big contribution for providing Chinese language education in Australia," said Li Fuxin. "It is my hope that they could be like the Alliance Française or the Goethe-Institut, continuing making contribution for the boost of diversified culture in the country."