Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College

Emily Jarvis

Friday, June 20th, 2014

When Wesleyan College in Macon was first approached about hosting a Confucius Institute in 2011, they knew a Chinese cultural center would have a positive impact on the college and the Middle Georgia community, but they recognized that it wouldn’t be easy. The logistics would involve finding a space on Wesleyan’s historic, mid-city campus for the facility, staffing the institute, and convincing a skeptical public that this was a good move for the area. Now, three years later, the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College has a year of programs under its belt and nothing but positive reactions from the community. 

Wesleyan’s Confucius Institute was the fourth to be established in Georgia—the first outside of Atlanta. There are more than 100 Confucius Institutes in the United States and over 400 worldwide. Confucius Institutes are Chinese language and culture centers dispatched by the Chinese Ministry of Education to universities, primary schools, and municipalities. The primary purpose of a Confucius Institute is to provide Mandarin language instruction in schools and community classes. Confucius Institutes also provide cultural programming to bring attention to the customs of China and to spark interest in the study of Chinese language. The celebration of traditional festivals and holidays; performances of dance, music, and art; lectures on Chinese culture and history; and exercises in the Chinese arts of calligraphy and paper cutting are among the many activities presented by Confucius Institutes to their host communities. 

Wesleyan College’s CI is no exception. In just a year, the CIWC has celebrated five major Chinese holidays, presented a film series of relevant Chinese movies, facilitated two lecture series by Chinese scholars, and taught Mandarin Chinese to more than 200 students, just to skim the surface. Interest in the Confucius Institute has not been limited to the immediate Wesleyan College community. The Wesleyan Academy for Lifelong Learning, a continuing education program for senior adults, has enrolled more than 60 students in Chinese Language and Culture classes in two semesters. Events open to the Macon community have drawn hundreds of people. And private schools in the area have introduced Mandarin classes taught by CI teachers to their students.

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely-spoken language in the world—there are three times as many Mandarin speakers are there are English speakers in the world. There is no denying China’s ascendency in global markets; children today will almost certainly work with a Chinese company or entity if they enter any sector of international business. Business people now are finding that their business dealings are becoming ever more intrinsically linked with China. As they enter the workforce, students today will find that Mandarin Chinese is among their most marketable skills, and the language instruction provided by Confucius Institutes will prepare students for that reality. 

The Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College is not limiting its instruction to schoolchildren and college students. Among its goals for the next year, the CIWC plans to offer Business Chinese for companies who have dealings in China and those who hope to break into the Chinese market. These classes will teach basic phrases for greetings, travel, and conversation, and well as Chinese business etiquette for scenarios like formal dinners and meetings. (If you have never pondered the proper way to exchange business cards with an associate, you might be surprised to find that there is a delicate ritual for such a mundane act in Chinese culture.) 

At the culmination of the class, the CIWC plans to facilitate a trip to China for participants to visit Chinese businesses and experience Chinese culture first-hand. The CIWC’s Chinese partner institution is Guangzhou University, located in the city of Guangzhou (formerly Canton) in southeast China. Guangzhou is the third largest city in China with a population of 14 million. With roughly the same population as Los Angeles, Guangzhou residents often call it “the largest city you’ve never heard of.” Despite its relative anonymity, Guangzhou is a hub of Chinese industry and tourism. It is less than two hours’ travel from Hong Kong by bus and a short flight from both Shanghai and Beijing. 

There has never been a better time for Macon and the United States to embrace the language and culture of China. Its rich culture of history, art, philosophy, and innovation affects us in ways we may not realize. What is apparent is that our connection with China is here to stay, and the CIWC is helping bring Macon into the global marketplace.

To find out more about Business Chinese classes and other programs offered by the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College, e-mail CI Program Coordinator Emily Jarvis at [email protected] or call 478-757-5212.