Source: China State Council Information Office 3
The Chinese language has become popular among Lebanese students over the past five years, says Antoine Hokayem, a professor and local director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Saint Joseph.
“In the past, Lebanese students used to register for Chinese language as an elective course. Today, we receive students from the USJ and other universities who aim to learn the language to either work in China or continue their education in the East Asian country,” Hokayem said on the occasion of the 15th anniversary for the establishment of the institute.
Hokayem says engineering and telecommunication students are among people who are mostly interested in the language as they aim to continue their higher education in China.
Other students attend the institute’s courses with a view to assisting their parents who are engaged in trade activities with Chinese partners, Hokayem adds.
“We have small children who learn the language and speak fluently with their Chinese teachers.… More than half of our students now come from outside our university.”
The number of students, who have registered with Confucius Institute since its establishment 15 years ago in Lebanon, stands at 3,982, according to the professor.
Founded in 2006 through a partnership between China’s Shenyang Normal University and the USJ, the Confucius Institute at USJ was selected as one of the best Confucius Institutes the world over for its cultural and social activities.
Over the past years, the institute has held lectures covering topics including China’s economy and cultural values as well as Peking Opera and the Belt and Road Initiative.
In addition to spreading Chinese culture among Lebanese students, the institute has also established strong ties with Chinese universities, such as Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine that offers the institute expertise in physiotherapy and acupuncture.
“Our students complete their speciality at USJ but we secure training for them at a hospital in Tianjin,” Hokayem says.
For the past few years, Lebanon and China have increased their cooperation in areas of trade, medicine and culture.
China has recently invested millions of dollars in building a conservatory near Lebanon’s capital, Beirut.
In 2020, the two countries also signed an agreement on the establishment of cultural centers in each other’s capital cities.
Hokayem calls on the government to include Chinese language in the Lebanese Baccalaureate program, saying it would help spread Chinese culture in Lebanon.
“I spent some of my best moments walking in Beijing’s streets and getting to know how people live, what they eat and how to speak and negotiate with them at shops,” Hokayem says.
He also praises the speed at which China has developed over the years.
“It’s amazing that every time I visit this country, I see more development and changes in many areas, especially infrastructure,” he says.