Confucius Institute Experience (Classes and Tutors)

I wanted to type up a few lines about my recent experiences with a local Confucius Institute, not only to help Lingq members who are studying Chinese but also because I know these forums are indexed by Google. I couldn’t find much information about student experiences at the CI so I thought I would post.

If you don’t know, the Chinese government sends people to various universities around the world to teach people Chinese for free. As far as I know, nobody knows exactly why they do this. Some say it’s to spy on the host country, some say it’s to decrease academic freedom in other countries, some say it’s to spread propaganda about China, and others say it’s just to genuinely help people. So I decided to go and see for myself.

First off, at my local CI, they say it’s just for students and staff but nobody checked my ID. So if you really want to, I’m sure you could go to the tutoring or free classes even if you’re not a student. You could also email your local CI and ask.

Overall, I think the tutoring is a really great resource. Every time I try to speak to native Chinese people, I always end up frustrated by my lack of vocabulary. It’s not something like German where I can fill in the gaps with cognates. The way it works is that she picks a topic for us to discuss every week. I know some people don’t like this approach but I’m finding it really helpful because I can spend the week before studying lessons related to that topic and get more vocabulary in me. This makes it so I have a real chance to have a conversation about the topic.

As far as the classes, there are three levels. One for people who don’t know Chinese at all, one for people who know some Chinese, and one for people who are advanced. I am in the second level. This is kind of unfortunate because it’s the most varied level in terms of ability. Some people speak entirely without tones, some people don’t know characters, and some people are almost fluent. Also, I did notice some aspects of propaganda in the classes. For instance, they showed clips from a Chinese dating show (非诚勿扰) and compared it with the American show “The Bachelor”. If you just saw those two side by side, you would be forced to conclude that American culture is depraved compared to Chinese culture. Still, I find the class interesting and will continue to go.

Hopefully this helps someone out there.

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“子曰。道之以政。齊之以刑。民免而無恥。道之以徳。齊之以禮。有恥且格。”
“子曰。民可使由之。不可使知之。”
“子曰。温故而知新。可以爲師矣。”

“There has also been criticism over the Communist Party’s appropriation of Confucius. Under Mao Zedong, Confucian values and teachings were perennial targets of criticism and suppression, being viewed as vestiges of feudalism.”–Wikipedia

I wonder what new kind of interpretation they have found in Confucianism.

Thanks for describing your experience. It is very interesting.