Sitting in a Confucius Institute classroom at L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University, one of the best-known colleges in Kazakhstan, Shaufa Mahambetova says she believes it's never too late to learn Chinese.
A Chinese volunteer teaches Mandarin at the Confucius Institute at the L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday.
Having taken Chinese classes there for four months, the 55-year-old woman can now speak fluently about simple things and even sing Chinese songs.
"I think if you have interests and goals, it's never too late to learn," said Mahambetova, who works for a Chinese pharmaceutical company in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.
Mahambetova is one of many Kazakhs who have found learning Chinese to be of great help in their careers. As economic ties between the two countries have become stronger in recent years, more and more people in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, have taken on a desire to learn Chinese.
"The number of students we are teaching has grown rapidly since the establishment of our institute in 2007," said Li Xichang, the Chinese director of the Confucius Institute at the L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University.
He said the institute doesn't employ enough Chinese teachers to meet the demand for its services, forcing him to refuse many applicants to the school.
According to Li, the Confucius Institute in Astana now teaches 86 students, 66 more than it had taught in 2007. It employs two Chinese teachers and four Kazakh teachers. "This year, we plan to apply for more classrooms," Li said. "And I think we can have more than 120 students."
For Sakosh Rauya, a 17-year-old student at the Confucius institute, learning Chinese is the first step to learning more about China.
"I want to be a doctor when I graduate from college, and I want to study traditional Chinese medicine in China," said Rauya, who is still in high school.
She said she wants to spend the last few years of her time at college at a Chinese university and that she, for that reason, should place a priority on learning the language.
The Confucius Institute was founded to teach students about Chinese culture and the Chinese language. China operates two Confucius institutes in Kazakhstan, one in Astana and the other in Almaty, the largest city in the country. Zhou Li, the Chinese ambassador to Kazakhstan, said last week that two Confucius institutes will be opened this year in the Kazakh cities of Aktobe and Karaganda.
(Xinhua News Agency June 16, 2011)