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A Brief Introduction of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (TCFL) of China

2009-09-10 15:26:00

Teaching Chinese as a foreign language (TCFL) is an integral part of China's reform and opening up drive. To promote TCFL is of strategic significance to popularize the Chinese language and culture throughout the world, to enhance the friendship and mutual understanding as well as the economic and cultural cooperation and exchanges between China and other countries around the world, and to elevate China's influence in the international community.

TCFL of China began in 1950, when Tsinghua University set up a training course of Chinese language for the international students from East Europe, the first group of foreign students we received since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. This training course is China's first specialized institution for teaching Chinese as a foreign language. In 1952, in line with agreements between governments, Zhu Dexi, a famous Chinese linguist along with some others went to Bulgaria to teach Chinese. This was the first time for New China to send teachers abroad to teach Chinese. Ever since then, the central government and relevant departments made great efforts to promote TCFL. From 1961 to 1964, four groups of teachers received special training for teaching Chinese abroad, and they become backbones of TCFL of China. In 1962, with the approval of the State Council, the Higher Preparatory School for Foreign Students was set up, which was renamed Beijing Language College later. It became a regular base for TCFL in China. Since early 1960s, to carry out the agreements between governments, China successively sent teachers to foreign countries to teach Chinese, including such African countries as Egypt, Mali and Congo, and Asian countries as Cambodia and Yemen, as well as France in Europe. During the Cultural Revolution (1966―1976), the TCFL drive suffered a serious setback, with Chinese students abroad coming back, teachers going abroad for TCFL withdrawn, and Beijing Language College disassembled. Since 1978, with the implementation of the reform and opening up policy, the overall national strength of China has enjoyed remarkable improvements, and the TCFL drive has accordingly entered a new era of vigorous development. In July, 1987, with the approval of the State Council, the State Leading Group for TCFL was established, involving the State Education Commission (now the Ministry of Education), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, the Foreign Affairs Office of the State Council (renamed the Information Office), the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, the Press and Publication Administration, as well as the State Language Commission. In 1998, the leading group made adjustments to add three new member groups, namely, the State Development Planning Commission, the Ministry of Finance as well as the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation. This is an indication of the government's emphasis on TCFL.

Up to now, there are more than 330 colleges offering TCFL programs in China, receiving about 40,000 foreign students to learn Chinese every year. There are TCFL programs of various types and levels, and a systematic teaching series and network of TCFL have been completed. There are almost 5,000 teachers of TCFL in China. In order to ensure the quality of TCFL teachers, the Guidelines for Teacher Qualification Evaluation of TCFL was promulgated in 1990, starting the teacher qualification certificate system of TCFL. More than 2,000 teachers have obtained the certificate. In 1992, the State Education Commission (now the Ministry of Education) promulgated the Guidelines for Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK) of China to promote HSK home and abroad. There are 36 examination sites in China and 35 abroad. So far, more than 142,000 people have participated in the test.

In the past 50 years, with the growing international status of China, there are more and more learners of Chinese around the world. Especially in the recent decade, Chinese teaching has been on a rapid rise in many countries and regions. In order to support Chinese teaching abroad, the Government of China has sent teachers of Chinese to more than 70 countries for 1,100 person-times from 1952 to 1999. More than 300 teachers of Chinese have been sent abroad in different ways each year. In addition, the Government also invites prestigious teachers of Chinese and foreign sinologists to visit China to have short-term academic exchanges, organizes professional training classes for the teachers of Chinese abroad, and donates Chinese books and textbooks to foreign colleges. In 1988, the World Chinese Language Teaching Society was established with 258 members. The number of the members has grown to 957 in 1999, among which 564 come from 41 foreign countries and regions. The Society has held 6 international symposiums on Chinese teaching, the first five of which were held in China, and the sixth was held in Germany in 1999, the first time ever in a foreign country. In 1993, under the support of the Government of China, the Moscow Chinese Center, the first overseas Chinese center, was established. Up to 1999, there are 5 overseas Chinese centers.

TCFL has developed rapidly as a specialized subject. Since 1983, Beijing Language and Culture University (formerly Beijing Language College), Beijing Foreign Studies University, Shanghai Foreign Studies University, and East China Normal University successively offered bachelor degree programs of TCFL, aimed to train professional TCFL teachers. Some higher education institutions began to recruit students for master degree programs of TCFL. In 1999, with the approval of the State Council, the first doctoral program of TCFL was set up in Beijing Language and Culture University. The Society of TCFL of China, established in 1988, has 1,142 members and 5 branch societies. It has held 5 national symposiums up to 1999. In the field of TCFL, more than 400 textbooks of various kinds and levels have been compiled, several hundred scientific research programs completed, 3 teaching syllabuses of bachelor program of the Chinese language major, for both long-term and of short-term programs for foreign students formulated, a series of professional journals established, professional research institutions and publishing houses set up, and symposiums of different types held. TCFL as a specialized subject has been developing in a scientific and standardized way.

China's accession to WTO will further elevate the country's influence on the economic development of the world. Its rapid development has brought tremendous impetus and precious opportunities for TCFL, which will achieve more progress in the 21st century. The Chinese language will be used in more countries and regions, and it will become an important tool and bridge for the exchanges of politics, foreign affairs, economy and trade, culture, education and science and technology between countries.

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