|Students from the 6th to 9th grades of Niels Steensens Gymnasium perform Chinese folk dance "Yanhe Wu", in Copenhagen, capital of Denmark, on Nov. 25, 2010, during the inauguration ceremony of Gymnasium's new Confucius Class. The establishment ceremony of Denmark's second Confucius class was held on Thursday in Copenhagen. [Devapriyo Das/Xinhua]
Red-and-gold Chinese lanterns hang from the classroom ceiling, while boldly-painted masks, often seen in Chinese operas, lie on tables at the back.
But a simple, green board along the front wall seems most eye-catching: it is covered with Chinese characters, neatly written in white chalk. And the students reading the characters are all Danish teenagers.
"Our students are becoming very aware that Chinese offers them possibilities that could benefit their future lives," said Dorthe Enger, principal of the prestigious Niels Steensens Gymnasium in Copenhagen.
On Thursday, it launched a "Confucius Classroom," the second in Denmark.
Enger believed that Denmark's small territory and limited number of Danish speakers (about 5.5 million) have made it imperative for Danes to learn foreign languages.
As Chinese teaching at her school is combined with the learning of China's art, culture and history, the study of the language, despite its complex characters and unfamiliar sounds, has turned into a pleasant experience.
Leopold Petersen, a 14-year-old eighth grader at Niels Steensens, has been studying Chinese for about six months. "It's a bit hard to remember all the signs," he said, "but it's an easy language to speak!"
He said he hopes to go to China one day and "to communicate normally with people."
His classmate Kristina said Chinese is "a special language and we have a lot of fun in Chinese classes."
Asked why she thinks its a useful language, she said, "I think it's a growing language, and it's very important we learn it. Other schools should be doing it as well."
An initiative of China's world-famous Confucius Institute, the Confucius Classroom concept is already turning heads in Denmark.
Stoevring Gymnasium, in Aalborg, northern Denmark, was the first Danish school to set up the classroom in collaboration with the Confucius Institute at Aalborg University.
The Confucius classrooms have, so far, been hosted in independently-run Danish schools. They receive some financial and human resource support from partner Confucius institutes.
"It's not that we are given a project. We ourselves are working very competently and in a very focused manner with the Chinese language," Enger said.
The assessment process to find a suitable host school is lengthy and can take up to two years.
The Confucius partnership will mean further opportunities for improving Chinese teaching skills, new educational materials for Chinese language classes, and a chance to work in partnership with the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China (RDFZ), one of China's finest high schools.
It also means exciting study tours and student exchange visits, and access to partner universities' academic resources.