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More students in Merida learn Mandarin as interest in China grows

UADY's Confucius Institute prepares students of all ages for Chinese trade, or even life in Asia

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The Confucius Institute of the Autonomous University of Yucatan holds “Confucius Institute Day” in honor of the renowned philosopher, as well as the half-autumn festival and the national day of Chinese popular culture, in the UADY central courtyard on Calle 60. Photo: Courtesy

Merida, Yucatan — Learning to speak Mandarin is thought to be the key to success for thousands of students in the Centro.

An increasing number of Mexicans are opting to study Chinese as trade and business opportunities with China expand.

The Confucius Institute of the Autonomous University of Yucatan is one of three in Mexico that have prepared thousands of students for the HSK Chinese proficiency examination since 2008.

Interest in all its courses is on the rise, especially among government officials and local business owners hoping to establish closer ties with China, according to the institute.

Its nearly 2,000 students represent a variety of age groups. Rosa Pereira, a university professor in her 50s, is enrolled in Level 2.

Pereira told the Xinhua news service that students learn more than just the language at the institute.

“More than the language itself, they teach the culture,” said Pereira, adding studies “are not based solely on what you can write, but on knowing the culture and its ideals, such as respect for the elderly, the festivities, which are so different, and even the importance of the color red.”

Since he learned Mandarin, corporate employee Alejandro Gonzalez has become a key liaison between his bosses and their Chinese suppliers.

After earning a scholarship to study in China, Gonzalez gained firsthand knowledge of its culture and customs..

“It’s the best thing that has happened in my life, being able to cross these borders, being able to enter a world that was truly foreign to me,” said the 23-year-old Merida native.

Gonzalez works for Sistemas en Punto, a local company that provides businesses with smart solutions for electronic payments, loyalty programs and other services. Thanks to his relationship with suppliers, the company plans to open an office in China.

Gonzalez began to study Chinese four years ago and takes twice-weekly classes at the Confucius Institute on Calle 60. He hopes to move to China one day, he told Xinhua.

Pereira also dreams of traveling to China one day.

To accommodate students like Pereira, who is more interested in learning about other aspects of Chins, the institute offers twice-weekly classes in Chinese culture for students 55 and older.

In its online social media accounts, the institute promotes the Monday and Thursday workshop on “Chinese culture and folk art” as a way to help others learn more about “the true essence” of Chinese society from Chinese instructors.

“We have to help the brain stay active,” said Pereira. “What’s more, I want my children to follow my example — to continue studying always, and what’s better than Chinese?”

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