Feature: Confucius Institute vital to promote Chinese, cultural exchanges in Cambodia

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PHNOM PENH, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- For Bou Sokcheat, a first-year Cambodian student in the major of Chinese literature at the Asia Euro University (AEU)'s Chinese Department here, the Confucius Institute has not only provided a high quality Chinese education, but also promoted cultural exchanges as well as Cambodia-China friendship.

The AEU's Chinese Department is one of the teaching centers of the Confucius Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia.

"The Confucius Institute has not only provided a high quality Chinese education, but also served as a window to the unique Chinese culture as well as a bridge to promote the bond of Cambodia-China friendship," she told Xinhua while attending celebrations of the Confucius Institute Day at the AEU on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old student said the Confucius Institute has played a crucial role in deepening people-to-people exchanges and developing human resources in Cambodia.

"I think the Confucius Institute is a cache of knowledge for learners of Chinese and a platform for cultural cooperation and development between Cambodia and China," she said.

Sokcheat has studied Chinese for six years and dreams of being a Chinese language teacher after graduation. She learns the language as she wants to know Chinese culture and to communicate with Chinese people.

"If I have a chance to visit China, I want to go to Beijing because it is rich in culture and civilization."

Chhang Meng Chhay, an 18-year-old freshman in the major of Chinese literature at the AEU's Chinese Department, said the Confucius Institute is vital to promote the Chinese language, cultural exchanges, and mutual understanding between the people of Cambodia and China.

"The Confucius Institute has become a window for showcasing the Chinese culture, a bridge to promote cultural exchanges and a bond for Cambodia-China friendship," he told Xinhua.

"As there are a lot of Chinese investors and tourists in Cambodia, learning Chinese will make it easier for us to get a decent job with Chinese companies or to do business with Chinese people," he added.

If possible, Chhay said he would first visit northwest China's Qinghai province, instead of any other places in China, because the province is rich in ancient culture and civilization.

Confucius Institute Day is always celebrated in September. The Confucius Institutes across the world traditionally mark this day by organizing public events where the Chinese language, culture, and tradition are shared with the local community.

Sam Sophy, dean of the AEU's Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Foreign Languages, said the Chinese language has gained significant traction in Cambodia thanks to the close ties between the two countries and the huge influx of Chinese investors and tourists to the kingdom.

"Since 2010, the AEU and the Confucius Institute have importantly contributed to the development of human resources and have trained a lot of students in the major of Chinese literature at the levels of bachelor's degree and associate's degree," he said.

Gan Min, Chinese director of the Confucius Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said learning Chinese is very popular in Cambodia and that the Confucius Institute now has 22 teaching sites across the country.

"Before the pandemic, we registered more than 10,000 students every year, but due to the pandemic, the number of students has declined," she told Xinhua. "So far this year, we have registered more than 5,000 students."

Gan said since its establishment in Cambodia in 2009, the Confucius Institute has provided free Chinese courses to more than 100,000 Cambodian learners. ■