China craze on the rise in Panama
A student receives instructions at the Confucius Institute at the University of Panama on November 22, 2017. [Photo: IC]
During the first visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Panama this week, another wave of "fever" on Chinese culture has swept across the Central American country.
People in Panama have taken an increasing interest in the Chinese language and Chinese culture following the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, and high-level exchange visits by their top officials.
The number of people applying to study at the Confucius Institute at the University of Panama has surged. It currently has more than 400 students, and has 6 classrooms located outside of the campus.
Wu Junhui from the Confucius Institute said that dozens of applicants who have registered for a course will have to wait until next year to be enrolled, as there aren't enough places to accommodate all of them this time around.
"The enthusiasm of the Panamanian people for learning Chinese reached a climax after China and Panama established diplomatic ties. To meet this rising demand, the Confucius Institute has opened teaching sites at two national universities, a tourism college, and also at a well-known local hotel chain."
Even more organizations across Panama are pushing to establish local Confucius Institute classrooms for Chinese teaching, including at the Panama City Tocumen International Airport and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
And the police school in Panama is hoping that the Confucius Institute can provide its students with training in Chinese martial arts.
Li Junfen, who was among the first batch of Chinese teachers sent to Panama in 2006, said she can feel the country's rising enthusiasm for Chinese language learning.
"Since the founding of the Confucius Institute, and the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two counties, students have become more active when it comes to learning Chinese. They believe it's really useful, whether it's for employment, or travel in China, or for personal development. Personally, I think there's been a huge change in this respect."
Many students in Li's class have expressed their love for the Chinese language, and for Chinese culture.
"Chinese is a very interesting language. I love studying different kinds of things. Through the language, a bridge can be built between the two cultures of China and Panama. Chinese culture is very rich; it's full of wonders and it has lots of things worth learning in Panama. "
Besides language learning, students at the Confucius Institute have also taken part in various cultural exchange activities in Panama City that helped to welcome President Xi Jinping's visit to the country.