'If you want to be more advanced than others, learn Chinese'. The Times weekly magazine once used such a sentence to describe the global 'Chinese language craze'.
Experts from home and abroad have participated in a series of national working conference on promoting Chinese language export in Beijing.
Experts say that with the fast economic development and more and more international exchanges, the Chinese language application value is increasing. But so far there are two big bottlenecks preventing it from going to the outside world.
Experts propose the government give policies and stabilize the teacher workforce
With good prospects of Chinese language application in the world, currently teaching the subject Chinese in China is also popular. This year, a total of 8,200 people have registered for the proficiency test of teaching Chinese, last year there were only 3,200 people registering. In higher education, this year, there were also more students registering for the subject of teaching foreigners Chinese. For example in Hunan Normal University and Xiangtan University, they only enroll 60 and 15 people, but they also have 800 candidates.
So the first bottleneck of 'exporting Chinese language' is that although there are more people learning to teach Mandarin, there are fewer Chinese language teachers who are good at teaching foreigners in the market.
Ma Jianfei, deputy director of the National Chinese Language Teaching Team Office, said that by 2010, it is expected that the number of people who want to study Chinese will reach 100 million, and over 4 million teachers will be needed. Currently, the number of people who want to study Chinese is estimated at 20 million globally, but there is a shortage of teachers at one million.
Why does a contradiction exist where more people would like be a Chinese language teacher to foreigners but here is however a lack of such teachers?
Experts hold that first of all, the Chinese teachers should also have a good level of English. According to the Education Department of Chinese Embassy to the US, the first group of Chinese teachers to America last year do not only not understand the US culture, especially the US teaching method, their English is also not good enough for them to teach in public, middle or primary schools.
Secondly, many Chinese language teachers are not professionally trained. They mostly changed into this subject from other subjects, or they just learnt Chinese language and literature, but didn't learn how to teach foreigners to learn Chinese while those who learned this subject, changed to do other jobs.
Also, those who go abroad to teach as volunteers, have worries about their jobs in China when they returned home; or those who can do the job don't want to go abroad for limited guarantees or treatment.
How to solve the problem of a lack of teachers?
Wang Yongda, counselor in Education Department of Chinese Embassy to Britain said there is a need to train teachers who are teaching Chinese in China as well as in foreign countries. Yu Jin, Party Secretary from Guangxi University said there should be new policies that can attract people from all walks of life to participate in teaching foreigners Chinese.
The second bottleneck is that the textbooks are not good enough.
The textbook should be adaptable to the students in their own countries.
During the conference, there was an exhibition of Chinese textbooks. There were many kinds of publications including VCDs, magazines and internet versions of the textbooks. For example the books published by Beijing Language and Cultural University include Xin ShiYong Hanyu Kewen, Hanyu Leyuan and so on. There are different kinds of textbooks, but it cannot meet people's demand.
Nancy Jervis, vice principal of the Confucius College in the US said that current textbooks do not match the students needs. Gu Feng, director of the Confucius School in Canada said they couldn't find good textbooks, so they have to cooperate with the local publisher to publish their own textbooks.
Why is this so? Experts say that this is due to the academic tendency of the Chinese composition textbook published by a famous publisher that has a lot of ancient Chinese characters which are very difficult for students to understand, read or write. Some textbooks are also very rigid in styles and the contents are not very interesting.
How to improve the textbooks?
Experts suggest Chinese textbooks compilers should cooperate with education and cultural sectors in that country and publish textbooks that are suitable for local characteristics.
Liu Zhipeng, director of the Higher Education Publishing House suggested that people consider what the local people like to learn and provide them whatever they need but not just provide what we have.
The article is written by Feng Xuan from People's Daily and translated by People's Daily Online