Confucius Institute continues growth at WKU

A WKU student walks through the future Chinese Learning Center being built on the first floor of Helm Library on Monday.

Katherine Wade

The Confucius Institute at WKU is teaching members of the community that we live in a small world after all.

“China is going to be a major partner with the United States in the future, and it is important that we understand each other,” said Cheryl Kirby-Stokes, education and community outreach coordinator for the Confucius Institute.

Kirby-Stokes said the Confucius Institute’s mission is not only to have Americans learn more about Chinese language and culture, but also to have Chinese learn more about Americans.

The institute is starting a Chinese language class for adults in the community starting in March.

Kirby-Stokes said interest in the institute has been very high and continues to grow. She said they brought in 11 teachers from China last year and expect 17 more next year.

Wenjing Li, one of the teachers at the institute, said the cultural interactions between her and her students allow them to learn about each other.

“American students are quite different from the Chinese students,” she said. “They are more friendly and enjoy more activities compared to Chinese students.”

Ruijie Guo, another teacher, said the most challenging aspect of teaching was the language itself.

“It’s hard for me and my kids to relate characters, pronunciations and meanings of words together,” she said.

Guo said when she knows her students are making progress is the most pleasant part of the experience and makes her proud to be part of the program.

In addition to offering classes, the Confucius Institute is also working on developing a Chinese Learning Center on the first floor of Helm Library.

“The idea is that you walk through China as you go through the library,” said Terrill Martin, operations manager for the Confucius Institute.

First in the center will be the Exhibition Room. Martin said it will be like a museum, with authentic artifacts and 10 high-tech, interactive learning stations. Each station will teach users about topics in Chinese history, such as the Beijing opera, paper cutting and kung fu.

The next room will be a Chinese library with 3,000 books and CDs. There will also be a multimedia room for lectures and classes.

Martin said construction on the learning center started around the end of September. He said they have put in new ceilings and will soon begin laying down flooring.

“It’s coming along beautifully,” he said. “Everything is being made specifically for our theme.”

The grand opening for the Chinese Learning Center is May 20 at 2 p.m.

Li said the relationship between China and the United States is closer than ever.

“I think the institute is doing a great thing to promote Chinese language as well as the culture,” she said. “It contributes a lot to the interaction between Americans and Chinese.”