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Teachers of Chinese in Great Demand
Though the new year has just begun, Jiang Mingbao, an official in charge of Chinese teaching as a foreign language in China, has begun to worry about the selection of Chinese teachers for overseas students in 2003.

"The overseas demand for Chinese teachers is becoming increasingly greater and more specific," said Jiang. "It is hard for me to find enough Chinese teachers meeting the requirements."

In the past 50 years, China has increased its number of the Chinese teachers sent abroad. There are now approximately 1,000 teachers from China teaching the Chinese language abroad, said Jiang, including 100 teachers sent by the government, 300 sent by their universities and more than 600 overseas Chinese students.

However, the teaching staff is not able to meet the overseas demand as the number of Chinese learners is on rise, said the deputy director of the China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (NOTCFL).

More and more foreign students are also flocking to China for study. During the decade from 1992 to 2002, China had received 410,000 foreign students. In 2002 alone, over 60,000 came to China.

Developed nations including the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) also have a greater demand for Chinese teachers. About 1,000 of the nearly 3,000 universities in the United States have instituted courses in the Chinese language. In Canada, the Chinese has become the third largest language after English and French.

Many foreign cultural exchange institutions employ Chinese teachers in China. According to Jiang Mingbao, the British Council employs over 10 Chinese teachers from China every year.

"It is impossible for Westerners to acquire all-round and objective information and an understanding about China if they lack the basic ability to exchange views directly with the people in China, or can neither understand news on the Chinese TV nor read newspapers or other written documents," said Peter Kupfer, a German scholar of Chinese.

Joel Bellassen, a noted professor of the Chinese language from Paris, noted that Chinese is considered of great practical value among French students.

"Now China's vital importance has become a fact," the French scholar said. "More Westerners have come to study Chinese with a sincere manner."

In the past, most Chinese learners were college students who studied chiefly out of interest in Chinese language and culture. Now, many learners are company clerks studying the language for business reasons.

Oliver Gleiter, a 35-year-old German, has two companies and runs three restaurants in Germany. However, he came to Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) recently to learn the Chinese.

"I can do business in a country with 1.3 billion people if I can speak Chinese," said Gleiter, who takes great pride as a student of Chinese in Beijing.

Some big American transnational firms, including Motorola, Boeing and Microsoft, have asked NOTCFL for Chinese teachers to train their staffers. At the invitation of Samsung company in ROK,BLCU has sent several groups of teachers to teach their workers Chinese.

The overseas Chinese learners are a younger group in recent years. A large number of middle school students and primary school kids have also began to study Chinese. Jiang Mingbao said many parents abroad hoped that their children would learn Chinese at an early age and could have more opportunities in the future.

Last April, the British Council invited NOTCFL to write a set of Chinese teaching materials for British junior middle school students to be used in 20 schools in England this year.

Meanwhile, Mauritius also asked for 80 Chinese teachers from NOTCFL to start Chinese courses in all the middle school and primary schools in the country.

China started to send Chinese teachers abroad back in the 1950sbut the large-scale sending out didn't begin until the early 1960s.

So far, 300 colleges and universities in China have set up departments or centers for teaching Chinese as a foreign language.

(Xinhua News Agency January 17, 2003)

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