The Confucius Connection

Just a few years ago, China knew nothing much about Barbados, and Barbados knew very little about China. But the Confucius Institute located on the Cave Hill Campus, The University of the West Indies (The UWI) is changing all that. Since it’s establishment in 2015 the Institute has become a hub for students and others who have an interest in learning about China, its language and its culture.

Managed by co-directors Dr Qingbao Song and Mr. David Bulbulia, the Confucius Institute at The UWI Cave Hill, was built on four main pillars:

  1. Language and culture for students and faculty at The UWI, Cave Hill Campus;

  2. Language and culture for other students in Barbados;

  3. Outreach programmes to the public/private sectors; and

  4. Activities to build an understanding of Chinese culture through lectures, open house programmes, and events.

Already some 3,500 Barbadians have learned Mandarin through the Confucius Institute at The UWI, Cave Hill Campus. According to Dr. Song, whose responsibility is managing the teaching of the Chinese language, the overall mission of the Confucius Institute is sharing culture and communication.

“For me communication is always very important. At the Confucius Institute here at UWI we are facilitating communication in two ways – we are not only teaching the Chinese language and culture, but we are also learning English and the Barbadian culture.

“Before, China did not know anything about Barbados, now I think there are more Chinese that know about Barbados and its culture because of our programmes, the delegations going to China, the exchanges. This is the true way of the Confucius Institute,” said Dr. Song.

And while the Chinese language has not yet acquired the international lingua franca standing of English, it is likely you'll hear Chinese spoken or see Chinese characters pop-up somewhere near you at a restaurant or store on the streets of Barbados. That’s why it’s an absolute benefit that the Confucius Institute be open to anyone in Barbados.

“When you contact the Confucius Institute, we will fit you into a class depending on your level of understanding. As a private citizen you can come into the classes with the students, which are held in the afternoons.

“The classes are not for credit in the University system, but you can study Chinese language and culture and receive the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK), which is an official examination. It is designed to assess the Chinese language proficiency of non-native speakers from beginners to advanced level. It is an internationally-recognised standard in assessing Chinese language level. The HSK tests include writing, listening and reading skills,” he explained.

Chinese history and culture are one of the richest and certainly the oldest in the world, and the Confucius Institute, through Mr. Bulbulia, whose responsibility is liaising The UWI-Cave Hill with the main campus in China, and manage the local outreach programmes, is looking at outreach programmes in other countries covered by The UWI, Cave Hill Campus.

“…this is an area that we have to work on some more. We are only three years old and so we are focused on our first set of priorities, which is the university here, local schools, and the private and public sectors – all of which we are building better understanding of the Chinese culture via lectures, exhibitions, presentations and so on.

“But probably by next year, we will look to formulate some programmes that include our counterparts in places like Grenada, Antigua, Dominica…where there is a Confucius presence,” Mr. Bulbulia explained.

To date the Confucius Institute, The UWI Cave Hill has facilitated delegations to China, including educational officers, a group from the Caribbean Examinations Council, persons from the Ministry of Education, teachers and students from primary and secondary schools, as well as training groups.

As the world gets smaller it’s highly probable that you will work with colleagues and customers for whom Chinese is their first language.

At the Confucius Institute there is the option to have one-on-one sessions with a teacher for a predetermined number of hours and cost.

This could translate into outreach into corporate Barbados, as well as business and career opportunities.

“We are flexible. If we have an approach by corporate Barbados, we can set up a programme that fits your needs with our capabilities. We will try to work with a client to find the time and structure that best suits them,” Mr. Bulbulia added.

With so much of its great and vast history spent with closed borders, its unique culture and diverse landscape are truly a secret waiting to be discovered.

It can start at the Confucius Institute where one can learn of this ancient world’s culture to their modern-day customs via language. So 为什么要学中文 (why not learn Chinese) …there is every reason to start!