Opportunities and Challenges for Cultivating Chinese-Portuguese Bilingual professionals: Chinese Language and Cultural Education

18 Dec 2018

A seminar on bilingual teaching and training between China and Portuguese-speaking countries was recently held at the University of Macau (UM) on Dec 7- 8th , 2018. The event was co-organized by UM and the Permanent Secretariat of Forum for Economic and Trade Co-operation between China and Portuguese-Speaking Countries (Macao), with assistance from the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute and supported by the Tertiary Education Services Office. The event aimed to explore the demand for Chinese-Portuguese bilingual professionals in the fields of economy and trade, culture, and law, and to provide a platform for sharing experience in bilingual teaching and training, in order to help build Macao into a base for the training of bilingual professionals.

The seminar invited Portuguese-speaking authoritative experts from universities and educational institutions in China, Portuguese-speaking countries and Macao, officials from relevant departments of the Portuguese-speaking countries, and representatives from the Macao business communities including corporate groups, accounting groups, auditors and lawyers.

Representatives from the Confucius Institutes in Brazil, Mozambique, Portugal, and the United States gave  special speeches on the topic ” Opportunities and Challenges for Cultivating Chinese-Portuguese Bilingual  Professionals: Chinese Language and Cultural Education.”

Prof. Jun Liu, the Vice-Chancellor of Global Affairs and International Academic Exchange, and Director of  Confucius Institute of Stony Brook University, America, who gave a speech of “The role of the Confucius Institute in global strategies of Universities”, he said: In the United States, for example, IC’s work is now quite fruitful. The Confucius Institute in the United States has offered a large number of Chinese courses and activities. Including local teachers, the Confucius Institute in the United States has tens of thousands of Chinese language teachers, nearly a thousand sets of Chinese textbooks, and a variety of Chinese research projects. Universities in China and the United States mutually share resources, the Confucius Institutes in US also help students apply for further study in Chinese universities. So far, 160,000 young people in the United States have participated in the “Chinese Bridge” competition, to showcase their language skills in the competition. Some students’ Chinese are even as good as native speakers. Nowadays, the Chinese language learners also pay more attention on learning Chinese-related skills. Some of the Confucius Institutes have begun to focus on Chinese medicine, trade and Chinese art.

Prof. Joaquim Carvalho, the Vice Rector of the University of Coimbra, Portugal, introduced the history of the University of Coimbra mentioned that the Confucius Institute of the University of Coimbra was established in 2016 in collaboration with  Zhejiang Chinese Medical University and Beijing Language and Culture University. The Confucius Institute was also located in a building of World Heritage. The Confucius Institute of the University of Coimbra offers courses in Chinese language and culture. At the same time, it has provided the courses of Chinese medicine for students to take, so that students can get a knowledge of  Chinese medicine and may work on Chinese medicine in the future. Each year, more than 100 students enroll in the Confucius Institute’s Chinese Medicine Program. Exhibitions on Chinese medicine and Chinese music , curriculums  for Chinese medicine in summer school will also be held in this year. For the future, we hope to add more courses related to Chinese and Chinese culture. We also hope that more Chinese universities, scholars and experts will work together to promote our communication and development. I hope that there will be more research projects in the future, especially for researches on Chinese culture.

Prof. João Gomes da Silva, the Director of the Confucius Institute of Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique, he represented: China is already the second largest economy in the world, and the development of China received much more attention. China is now one of the largest trade partners of the African continent, and African countries have benefited a lot from China’s development, especially in infrastructure construction and education. China has exempted many African countries from debt, and the cooperation  between China-Africa has shown a good momentum. Mozambique is not a Portuguese-speaking country, so we still have a lot to do in promoting bilingual development. Macau is a well-developed multilingual region, we should learn from Macau to build a multilingual environment. We should develop some guidelines to encourage more people to learn Chinese. For people in Mozambique, Chinese may be their third or fourth language. Nowadays, many people want to  work in Chinese companies , thus the demand of Chinese language is increasing. Our Chinese education should not only improving the language ability of our own people, but also cultivating skills based on language proficiency, helping them to  improve their competitiveness and adapt them into a global living environment. In addition to teaching Chinese language, the promotion of Chinese culture and literature is also very important, because language, culture, and literature are closely related. We hope to cultivate more competitive bilingual professionals or multilingual professionals. Currently, there are relatively insufficient courses, teaching materials and teachers in Africa. We know that China is giving us assistance, but most of our Chinese teachers are volunteers,  and there is a lack of experienced Chinese teachers. The Confucius Institute is a good platform to draw closer to China and Africa. We hope that more cooperation and communications will be established with China to cultivate multilingual professionals.

Prof. António Manuel Lazaro, the Director of Confucius Institute of University of Minho, Portugal delivered a speech of “Challenges and Opportunities of the Confucius Institute in the  Portuguese-speaking countries”. He said: The Confucius Institute of the University of Minho was established in 2006. We currently have 440 students and 38 classes to teach Mandarin. The University of Minho is located in the north of Portugal. To ensure the operation of teaching, the University of Minho also cooperates with the Confucius Institutes in other Portuguese universities. Our university offers a undergraduate major of Chinese language with bachelor’s degree, since 2015 we started to run  Chinese programs which provide teachers to teach Chinese at local secondary schools. We also hold Chinese activities in Minho and nearby cities, these activities are open to the public and primary and secondary school students to participate in, the cumulative number of participants has reached more than 400 people till now. Besides, we publish books and journals about Chinese language and Chinese language teaching. Competitions related to Chinese culture, such as Chinese opera are also be held by our students, which help us accumulated a lot of experience. In order to find more ways to promote Chinese language and culture and draw closer to the relationship between the two cultures, we have held many lectures and exhibitions. Recently, we will also cooperate with the Macao office in Portugal to hold a photo exhibition to promote Chinese and introduce Macao to our citizens. We will set up a branch school of Confucius Institute in next year, free Chinese courses will be offered, we hope that more people will participate in and learn Chinese culture. But our current problem is that we don’t have Chinese teacher who knows Portuguese language well, so we hope there would be some bilingual teachers. In the future, in addition to working with China, we would like to have more cooperation with other Confucius Institutes in Portuguese-speaking countries, we hope that more communication will help us solve our current problems.

Prof. Bruno Martarello de Conti, the Director of Confucius Institute of State University of Campinas, Brazil gave his speech on “The Role of Confucius Institute in the Context of  the Belt and Road Initiative”. According to him: The coverage of  “the Belt and Road Initiative” is very broad. This initiative connects land and sea and promotes business development, involving about one-third of the world’s population. According to our survey data, most young people in Brazil are interested in learning Chinese. One-third of them want to study Chinese in the United States, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Only a small number of students are willing to study in China. The reasons are the long distance and cultural differences between the two countries. “The Belt and Road Initiative” is conducive to cultural exchanges. We hope that more people can learn Chinese through the platform of Confucius Institute. Confucius Institutes can help Brazil better integrate into the global environment, but the lacking of professional Chinese teacher is also our problem. We already have some cooperation with Hong Kong now, I hope that there will be more cooperation with Hong Kong, Macao and Mainland China, and more flow of young generations. We need to establish relationships with China through “language” and “culture”, and  to better integrate into “the Belt and Road Initiative”. “The Belt and Road Initiative” can help us reach out to other cultures, and gain more connections in the global environment.

The representatives of Confucius Institute who participated in the forum covers North America, South America, Africa and Asia. Jin Honggang, the Director of Confucius Institute of University of Macau, then chaired the Q&A session. The representatives of universities and educational institutions of China, Portuguese-speaking countries and Macao shared and discussed the opportunities and challenges facing in current Chinese language and culture education ,especially  for the Confucius Institute.