Chinese Government Partners with COB for Mandarin Language Programme

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President of the College of The Bahamas Mrs. Janyne Hodder and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas His Excellency Li Yuanming show Temple Christian Schools preschooler Antonio Carlos Rose some of the teaching aids for language teaching, at a press conference announcing the Chinese Ministry of Education’s donation to assist with the Mandarin Chinese classes at the institution’s International Languages and Cultures Institute (ILCI).  (Photo: Eric Rose) 

By ERIC ROSE

NASSAU, Bahamas –
The Chinese Ministry of Education’s presentation of language books and teaching aids to the College of The Bahamas (COB) will assist with the Mandarin Chinese classes at the institution’s International Languages and Cultures Institute (ILCI), COB President Janyne Hodder said at a press conference on January 24.

“It is clear that there is an appetite in this country for the kind of outreach that this programme represents,” Mrs. Hodder said.  “This is a programme that is accessible to everyone in the country.  If you want to want to learn Mandarin or, for that matter, any of the other languages we are teaching, we are here to serve you and to serve your goals.”

Also in attendance at the press conference and representing stakeholders in the initiative were Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas His Excellency Li Yuanming; COB Vice President of Research, Graduate Programmes and International Relations Dr. Linda Davis; ILCI Director Dr. Irene Moss; COB International Relations Liaison Valdez K. Russell; Associate Professor at Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology (NUIST) in Nanjing, China, and Visiting Professor of Mandarin at ICLI Mr. Xu Xianwen; Second Vice-President and Chairman of the Globalisation Committee at the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce Mr. Grishan Major and Past-President of The Bahamas-China Friendship Association Mr. Joseph Curry.

According to a COB press release, Professor Xu has come to The Bahamas to head the teaching of Mandarin Chinese to various groups of students and special interest groups.  He has wide experience in the teaching of second-language and at NUIST was head of a department of 150 teachers instructing English, Japanese, German, Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (TCFL), as well and Chinese Language and Literature.

“As ties between The Bahamas and China strengthen, more and more Bahamians will find they need to speak Mandarin Chinese to enhance their relationships with Chinese companies,” the release stated.  “ILCI is already working with a group from the Ministry of Tourism and is offering classes in ‘survival Mandarin’ for The Bahamas Olympic contingent prior to the Beijing Olympics later this year.”

Professor Xu said that even though last semester’s Mandarin evening classes started last semester and mainly business persons took part in them, he looks forward for classes to include those for children and families.

“Then they can go to China for inter-cultural experiences,” he said.  “That is very important in my country, with a view to exchanges with other universities.”

Ambassador Li, through whose embassy the gift was made to The Bahamas, said that his country is happy to assist in forming the strong linkages that languages can create.
“Multiculturalism is becoming a trend in the world; so we realise that it is more and more important for people to learn different cultures, not only for economic reasons, but also for better communication between the people of the nations,” he said.

Ambassador Li added that such initiatives are a very important part of the job his Embassy wants to do — promoting the Chinese culture.  He thanked the institution and the ILCI for the work that has been done so far and the future projects that are being planned.

“I hope we continue working together, in this regard; working together to promote the friendship and co-operation between China and The Bahamas,” he said.

Mr. Major of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce said that they are happy to partner in this endeavour with all the involved parties, especially in light of their recent exploratory ventures into China.

“We had the opportunity of taking a delegation to several provinces in China, just last year,” Mr. Major said.  “We certainly recognise the value and the tremendous need – especially when it comes to conducting commerce – to be able to effectively communicate with whom you are doing business.

“Nothing is more engaging and more rewarding than to do so in their ‘mother tongue.”

Past-President of The Bahamas-China Friendship Association Joseph Curry said that one of the objectives of the association is to strengthen the relationships between The Bahamas and China, especially in terms of culture.  He said that the association believes that understanding between peoples becomes greater once there is a greater knowledge of the cultures involved.

“We believe that the introduction of Mandarin is the first step,” Mr. Curry said.  “We look forward to when Mandarin is actually being taught in our high schools and, indeed, in our primary schools.  Spanish and French continue to be the dominant foreign languages (taught in schools); but we know from trends that are happening internationally, we are going to see more and more of the educational institutions introducing Mandarin into their systems.”

He added that as more Bahamians are traveling to China for business.  Therefore global economic coaching is an area that the association has a “great interest” in encouraging.

“We believe that our business persons ought to be equipped in understanding the language, the culture, how to do business with that culture and that is something that is going to be one of the top priorities of the Institute (ILCI) and we are just excited about this new initiative,” Mr. Curry said.

“The Chamber of Commerce certainly will continue engaging in this partnership,” Mr. Major added.

Mrs. Hodder thanked all those involved in making the ILCI a reality, including faculty members and private sector partners.  She especially commended Ambassador Li for his personal interest shown in the College.

“You have been so supportive of what we are trying to do, so supportive of the College, so interested in our projects ever since we have been talking about our university transition,” she said.  “I just want to thank you very, very much on behalf of the entire College of The Bahamas community for your support of our goals.”

According to the COB press release, at the request of Dr. Moss, Professor Xu is presently doing research on the possibility of establishing a Confucius Institute at COB.  Confucius Institutes, named after the Chinese philosopher who revolutionised education in China more than 2,500 years ago, specialise in the teaching of Mandarin Chinese.  Already it is estimated that 30,000,000 people worldwide are learning to speak Chinese, many of them at the 200-plus Confucius Institutes worldwide.

“At present, there is no Confucius Institute in the Caribbean, so, by collaborating with NUIST, the College of The Bahamas is pioneering the teaching of Chinese in the region by establishing a Confucius Institute here in Nassau,” the press release said.  “This will also contribute to the development of a multi-cultural community in The Bahamas and of the College, as it seeks to become the University of The Bahamas.”

“Clearly, the teaching or the opportunity to teach Mandarin, to host a Confucius classroom and, perhaps, eventually a Confucius Institute, and to explore links for our students and faculty to spend time in university in China, is entirely connected to the notion of supporting national growth and development,” Mrs. Hodder said.

“Opportunities for trade with China are enormous and growing,” she added.  “The College’s role is to be there, to support and drive those opportunities and enable Bahamians to benefit from them.”