It is critical and important for kids in the United States and Europe to learn Chinese nowadays, as a booming China generates a huge demand for Western employees speaking both fluent English and Chinese in the years to come.
This was the consensus among teachers, students and experts at the Experience China Open Day held by the Chinese Consulate General in New York City Friday evening.
The function attracted more than 200 U.S. teachers, students and parents to the Chinese Consulate General, participating in various cultural immersion games such as paper cutting, making Chinese knots, calligraphy and playing Guzheng, a traditional Chinese musical instrument.
"This event aims to motivate students' interests in learning Chinese language, understanding its culture, which is part of the increasingly close people-to-people exchanges that lay a solid foundation for strong China-U.S. relations," Acting Consul General Cheng Lei said.
Showcasing their appreciation of Chinese language and culture, a group of Bayside High School students performed traditional Kongzhu (Chinese yo-yo), and Montville Township High School students staged a short drama titled Shared Values of China and the United States in both English and Chinese.
"It is critical and important for kids to learn Chinese nowadays, as the awareness and visibility of China have tremendously increased through different channels," Liao Shenzhan, American director of the Confucius Institute at China Institute, told Xinhua.
"Parents here can see it very clearly that how the Chinese language and understanding of Chinese culture will be helpful and useful for their kids in the future," she said.
"It fundamentally opens their minds..., especially for kids in Europe and America," and "also opens a different window for them to see the world differently," she said.
"These are two very fundamental reasons for kids to learn Chinese language and culture as young as possible," Liao said.
Liao praised the Chinese Consulate General for "doing a great job" in helping locals access the rich resources for learning the Chinese language and culture by organizing events like Friday's Open Day.
"This is the second year, and I heard a lot of teachers talked about how they enjoyed last year, and they are bringing back their students this year, and I am looking forward to this kind of consistency," she said.
Lauren Musan, a student from the Bayside High School, said Chinese is a useful language "though a bit difficult to learn."
"It will help us in finding a better job in the future," Musan said.
To many people's surprise, Jayson Baptiste from Medgar Evers College Preparatory School shared his story about learning Chinese in perfect Mandarine from the beginning to the end.
"I hope everybody got his own Chinese Dream from today on," Baptiste said.
"Culture could be a very good entry point to generate interest, to provide sort of access to something that would motivate students to go on studying the Chinese language," said Daisy Zhongbei Wu, an associate professor of Performing Arts Center at Alfred University.
Wu is also associate director of Confucius Institute at the university, which is dedicated to promoting the study of Chinese language, culture, ethics and philosophy, and furthering the understanding of China today.
She said more than 100 Alfred University students have studied Guzheng with her since the university offered the courses in 2011.
Daniel Tizol, assistant principal of Bayside High School, also encouraged his students to make a long-term commitment to learning the Chinese language and culture.
"Continue to connect your lives to Chinese culture, continue to learn, integration is the key to learn a second language, to partner with your communities, whether on line or in local community," he suggested.