The Confucius Institute is an international, educational, non-profit institution aimed at teaching Chinese language and culture and promoting educational cooperation between China and other countries. The Confucius Institute at the University of Malta was established in 2009 through the cooperation of the University of Malta and Xiamen University. Professor Maya Han, co-director of the institute, spoke to The Report Company about its activities.
The Report Company: When did the institute open its doors and what is its main role?
Maya Han: The Confucius Institute at the University of Malta started its official contract with Xiamen University in 2009 and it began to run in 2011. Our job is mainly to teach the Chinese language to Maltese students, introduce Chinese culture to Malta and to help with exchanges between China and Malta particularly in the academic field.
TRC: Why did you decide to open a Confucius Institute in Malta?
MH: We are very thankful to the efforts of the University of Malta. Years ago they got in touch with Xiamen University and they had the idea that maybe the Chinese language could be introduced to Malta. Xiamen University gave positive feedback with enthusiasm, They began to discuss the collaboration between the two universities and reached an agreement very quickly.
Since then the University of Malta has been very helpful in all fields of the work of the Confucius Institute, and the Chinese programmes of the Confucius Institute soon became a part of the official curriculum of the University. Now the Confucius Institute is offering a bachelor’s programme in Chinese language in the university, as well as a diploma programme. This is quite rare, even among other Confucius Institutes abroad. So far we run various programmes in teaching Chinese to local people, namely they are the Bachelor’s programme, diploma, Degree-plus. Evening School for the public as well as the Chinese Taster lessons at local primary and secondary schools. A few of our students are at a quite good level now and they have no problem in communicating in Chinese. Since they showed great interest in China and the Chinese culture, we are encouraging and helping them to apply for scholarships so that they can get a chance to know China better. I hope they will get it and have a good experience in China.
“We run certain scholarship programmes to send Maltese students and professionals to China.”Tweet This
TRC: How many people are enrolled in the programmes?
MH: We haven’t got an exact number for 2014 because the programmes are still running, but for last year it was about 200 people in all programmes including the BA, the diploma and evening class. We are also offering Chinese language teaching in the local primary and secondary schools.
For local schools, so far we are offering the Chinese courses at three levels. The lowest level is the interest group after school. When school is over, some students may just stay behind and learn some everyday language of Chinese. Another level is the Chinese language taster which means maybe every week our volunteers will just spend one or two hours at the schools introducing a little bit of the language and a little bit of the customs in China as a combination. That is the language taster. Several schools are interested in taking Chinese into their curriculum which means it will be an examined course in the future.
TRC: Besides teaching the language itself, do you do any type of cultural activities?
MH: Yes. The big event for this year will be the global Confucius Institute day, which is scheduled on 27th September. All the Confucius Institutes globally will offer language tasters and cultural activities and we will host the event in Malta.
In 2014, we have offered or participated in a few events like the Spring Festival celebrations, the Maltese-Chinese students’ trip to Gozo and the tea ceremony for the newly established Oriental Society of Malta.
TRC: What support does the Confucius Institute provide to strengthen the links between Malta and China?
MH: We run certain scholarship programmes to send Maltese students and professionals to China. Namely they are the Chinese government scholarship, the Confucius Institute scholarship. In the collaborating university, that is Xiamen University, they are offering a scholarship for outstanding overseas students. From Hanban, which is the headquarter that manages the teaching of the Chinese language abroad, they are offering a Confucius China Studies scholarship at the doctoral level as well as a Young Leaders Fellowship for the outstanding young activists in the local society . We are trying to find as many opportunities as possible for our students to study in China and we also try to help Chinese students to further their education in Malta .
“The Confucius Institute is offering a bachelor’s programme in Chinese language in the university, as well as a diploma programme. This is quite rare, even among other Confucius Institutes abroad.”Tweet This
TRC: Do you do any initiatives together with the other Chinese entities in Malta?
MH: Yes, we do. During the traditional Chinese festivals, one or two agencies may come together and organise some activities. It’s not only for the Chinese community in Malta, but for the public in general. The latest one was the Lantern Festival in early February.
TRC: What are your expectations for the future and what do you want to achieve?
MH: So far we are doing very well in teaching Chinese on the campus. We have got the BA programme and this is quite advanced. The next step is that we want to strengthen the exchanges of scholars between China and Malta or between China and Europe. We hope more Chinese scholars and students will come over to Malta for their research work or study.
An agreement on the higher learning has been signed between the two countries, for which we are expecting a new stage of exchange in the education. We are planning to promote exchange programmes between institutions and schools of the two countries. A number of Maltese schools are asking for the Chinese course at their school so we are trying to look at the possibilities of introducing standard Chinese teaching to one or two schools. It’s not so easy to learn Chinese for Europeans. We want to start a program with cautions, and once we do it, we have to do it well.
We are here to introduce the Chinese language and culture to Maltese people, so the Confucius Institute wants to be their friend and will do our best to help with relevant exchanges between China and Malta.