As China integrates further with the rest of the world, the Chinese language has seen an increase in the number of learners throughout the world.
Last year, 12,757 people in 24 countries outside China took the Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK), 47 percent more than in 2000, according to statistics from China's Ministry of Education.
South Korea, Japan and Indonesia rank first, second and third in terms of the number of people taking the test.
The HSK test began in Beijing in 1988. It is a national standardized test designed to assess foreign learners' mastery of the Chinese language. The test is divided into three levels: elementary, elementary to intermediate and advanced.
Those who pass the different levels get the corresponding HSK Chinese Proficiency Certificate from the State Commission for the Chinese Proficiency Test under the ministry.
In 1991, the HSK test was held on a trial basis in Singapore, Japan and Australia. It has since been gradually accepted by educational departments in more and more countries.
To date, the Office of the State Commission for the Chinese Proficiency Test has set up 44 testing centers in 27 cities in China, including Hong Kong and Macao, and 55 centers in 24 other countries in Asia, Europe, the Americas and Oceania.
Since 1991, a total of 380,000 people from 120 countries have taken the test in those centers, said Zhang Xinsheng, vice-minister of education. He was speaking at a reception held Monday in Beijing to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first HSK test held abroad.
The Chinese language -- as well as Chinese culture and other languages and cultures -- has played a tremendous role in developing human civilization and pushing forward social progress, Zhang said.
"This reception is being held in the hope that a bridge can be built between educators in China who teach Chinese as a foreign language and people who study, teach or use Chinese in other countries,'' he said.
"It is the hope of such people that the exchange of languages can help enhance understanding and friendship between people of different countries,'' he added.
(Xinhua News Agency February 26, 2002)