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University of Iowa News Release

April 17, 2006

UI Wins Grant To Establish Confucius Institute

The University of Iowa has received nearly $450,000 to establish a Confucius Institute, which will focus on teaching Chinese language and culture and facilitate exchange between the UI and Chinese universities. Chuanren Ke, associate professor of Asian languages and literature and director of the UI Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, will direct the Confucius Institute.

The China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, known as Hanban, initiated the Confucius Institute project in 2004 and has supported the establishment of 40 institutes worldwide. The UI is the third university-based institute in the U.S.

An inauguration celebration for the UI Confucius Institute is planned for fall 2006, with Chinese government representatives slated to attend.

Ke said this collaboration with Hanban will make the UI stand out from its peer institutions when competing for external grant funding. "This positions us as a leader for Chinese language acquisition and pedagogy research and recognizes our important role in teacher training," he said.

The UI Confucius Institute will comprise two centers and one academic journal.

The Center for Chinese Language and Culture will be directed by Judy Polumbaum, professor of journalism and mass communication, and will focus on teaching Chinese at the UI and in Iowa communities as well as on training teachers of Chinese language. The center will also work with the UI's Center for Asian and Pacific Studies to organize Chinese cultural events and workshops on various aspects of Chinese culture including calligraphy and brush painting, cultural geography, law, politics, urban life, martial arts, dance, music, and cuisine.

Beginning this fall, a number of Chinese language and culture courses will be offered through the Confucius Institute, both on and off campus. A four-course series of beginning Chinese is designed for high school students, UI students, non-degree students, and adults, who have little Chinese language background. Taught by visiting professors from China, these courses will provide instruction in all four language skills of aurally understanding, speaking, reading and writing. In Fall 2006, the first course in the series, Beginning Chinese I, will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 5:30-6:45 p.m.

Also this fall, the Confucius Institute will offer community classes in Iowa City, with plans to offer community classes in other Iowa cities in spring 2007. Classes will meet once a week for eight weeks. The course will provide a groundwork for the study of modern Chinese, including instruction in aurally understanding, speaking, reading and writing. Finally, the Institute will work with the Belin-Blank Center to offer introductory modern Chinese through the center's Challenge Saturday classes for junior high school students in the fall. For information on enrollment in the community or youth classes, contact Rebecca Kessler at 319-335-0159 or rebecca-kessler@uiowa.edu

The Confucius Institute's second center, the International Center for the Studies of Chinese as a Foreign Language will be directed by Ke. The center will focus on research to advance understanding of second language acquisition (SLA) in Chinese and will be establishing a new "Journal of Chinese Applied Linguistics." The UI has a critical mass of top-notch faculty in Chinese SLA research, and that expertise in conjunction with the Ph.D. Program in Second Language Acquisition (FLARE), makes the UI uniquely suited for a leadership role in research on the learning and teaching of Chinese as a foreign language, Ke said.

Ke said the UI's successful proposal was made possible through support from UI International Programs, the Graduate College, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Vice President for Research.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011, mary-kenyon@uiowa.edu; Program: Chuanren Ke, 319-335-2156, chuanren-ke@uiowa.edu