Even to people who are only remotely familiar with Chinese culture, the word ‘Confucius’ probably conjures up a stereotypical image of an elderly Chinese scholar with a long beard and dressed in flowing robes. But you won’t see him in the Confucius Institute at UM. Instead you will see many foreign faces from different parts of the world, including the United States, Australia, Japan, and South Korea. They may come from different backgrounds, but they are gathered here for the same reason: to learn Chinese. But with the number of Chinese language teaching centres mushrooming, why do they choose to study at UM?
There is an old Chinese saying that can be roughly translated: For anything worthwhile to happen, there needs to be the right time, the right place, and the right people. This seems to be the case for the Confucius Institute at UM. First, the Macao SAR government has planned Macao’s development in the broader context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Second the SAR government has positioned Macao to become a platform for business and trade collaboration between China and Portuguese-speaking countries as well as a world centre for ourism and leisure. Third Macao is blessed with unparalleled advantages that other Chinese cities can only envy, such as its political status as a special administrative region and the attendant ‘One Country, Two Systems’ policy,its advantageous geographic location, its cultural diversity, and the abundant local supply of multilingual professionals.Ever since its founding in April of this year, the CI has launched a series of Chinese language courses, including an elementary course and an intermediate course. The first cohorts of students will complete the courses at the end of this month.
There is no lack of people studying Portuguese in Macao, because of the city’s rich Portuguese heritage. But some Portuguese expatriates are reversing the trend by learning Chinese.
Apart from high-quality Chinese language courses, the CI organizes cultural exchange programmes through its international centre for the training of Chinese language instructors. For instance, it is now organising a workshop on teaching and training of bilingual professionals for China and Portuguese-speaking countries, in collaboration with the Permanent Secretariat for the Forum for Economic and Trade Co-operation between China and Portuguesespeaking Countries (Macao), and the Chinese-Portuguese Bilingual Teaching and Training Centre (CPBTTC). The workshop will be held in December and attended by directors of Confucius Institutes in Portuguese-speaking countries. According to Hong Gang Jin, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and director of the CI, the institute will continue to work closely with the CPBTTC to explore effective theories and methods of bilingual learning. The ultimate goal is to develop the institute into not just a Chinese language training centre, but also a teacher training centre for language instructors, so as to produce outstanding bilingual professionals for China and the world.