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  America
China Exports Chinese Language
By Bill Costello
Education Columnist
In an effort to promote its language and culture, China is funding Chinese education programs in the U.S. While critics question Beijing’s motives and view the programs as propaganda vehicles to spread China’s influence, the U.S. should embrace this opportunity to learn more about its largest creditor, trading partner, and competitor.

Funding from the Chinese Ministry of Education supports programs such as the Confucius Institute and the Confucius Classroom in which U.S. students receive Chinese-language instruction and learn about Chinese culture.

Hanban, a public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education, is sending teachers from China to U.S. schools and subsidizing their salaries by roughly $13,000 a year. U.S. school districts pay the rest.

Hanban is also subsidizing travel costs to send U.S. educators to visit schools in China with the hope they will start Chinese education programs upon their return.

In other words, Americans are learning about China at Beijing’s expense. Despite Beijing’s questionable motives, the Chinese education programs
benefit Americans in several ways.

First, as the economies and national security issues of China and the U.S. become increasingly interdependent, it becomes more and more critical that the two nations understand each other. It would be in the U.S.’s best interest to cultivate more diplomats and business people who understand China’s language and culture.

Second, at a time when cash-strapped schools are cutting foreign language classes, Beijing’s offer to subsidize part of the cost is too good to refuse. The Chinese education programs provide students with language instruction they would otherwise not receive.

Third, language learning provides many benefits beyond the ability to communicate in another language. It has a positive effect on intellectual
growth, academic achievement, and attitudes about other cultures.

Fourth, China’s emergence as an important country means that job opportunities will abound for those who understand China’s language and
culture.

Chinese is the most widely spoken first language in the world. There are more than three times as many native speakers of Chinese than of English.

The Chinese education programs may be one of the most valuable imports the U.S. receives.




Bill Costello, M.Ed., is a U.S.-based education columnist, blogger, and author of Awaken Your Birdbrain: Using Creativity to Get What You Want. He can be reached at www.makingmindsmatter.com

 

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