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Confucius Institute Formed at PSU to Promote Chinese Language and Culture
Author: Erin Malecha Arias, Office of University Communications, 503-725-3711
Posted: January 31, 2007

Portland State University and the Office of International Affairs have signed an agreement with the China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (Hanban) to establish a Confucius Institute in Portland.

Confucius Institutes are being established worldwide to promote Chinese language and culture and to support Chinese teaching internationally. The Confucius Institute at Portland State is part of a national trend of Chinese awareness in the U.S. With encouragement from the Chinese and American governments, schools across the United States are expanding their language offerings to include Chinese, the world's most-spoken tongue. (Worldwide, 1.4 billion people speak Chinese.)

The Chinese government funding that establishes Portland State’s Confucius Institute will include a library materials grant, resources for hosting a visiting faculty member from Suzhou University (PSU’s sister school in southwestern China), along with support for community outreach and development. Short courses in cultural awareness for business and travel are in expected to be available as early as summer 2006.

“We welcome this new relationship with the Chinese government,” said Gil Latz, vice provost of International Affairs at Portland State. “ terms of research, professional training, international students, and study abroad....has grown to become one of the University's high priorities, as identified by Portland State President Dan Bernstine's Internationalization Initiative.”

With China poised to become the next global economic superpower, policymakers say it’s essential that American schools expand their Chinese capacity. An estimated 30,000–50,000 K-12 students are now studying Chinese in U.S. schools, including students who are taking private lessons after school or on weekends. Last year, the Defense Department gave a $700,000 grant to public schools in Portland to double the number of students studying Chinese in the Portland Public Schools immersion program.

Last May, U.S. Senators Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) introduced a bill to spend $1.3 billon over five years on Chinese language programs in schools and on cultural exchanges to improve ties between the United States and China. When 2,400 U.S. schools expressed interest, the College Board quickly embarked on a project to create an Advanced Placement Chinese curriculum for American schools. Beijing is paying for half of the $1.35 million to develop the classes.

All Confucius Institutes are headquartered in Beijing. The first Confucius Institute opened in 2004 in Seoul, Korea, and many more have since been established in other countries. The Ministry of Education in China estimates that, by the year 2010, there will be approximately 100 million people worldwide learning Chinese as a foreign language, and plans to set up 100 Confucius Institutes worldwide.

For more information about the Confucius Institute at Portland State, please contact the Office of International Affairs, 503-725-5077.

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Source: Gil Latz (503-725-5350)
Office of International Affairs