The Slovenia Times

Building bridges in cultural dialogue and business through language and education


"When I assumed the position of director of Confucius Institute Ljubljana 6 years ago, I did not know what an important role the Faculty of Economics at the University of Ljubljana can play in incorporating Chinese language and culture across Slovenian kindergartens and universities, and bringing together local and business communities between China and Slovenia. I hope that Chinese language can be vertically incorporated into the whole Slovenian education system, like they have done in Russia, Portugal, and South Africa. In the US, a new Million Strong Initiative has been recently launched to teach 1 million students Chinese language. Through learning language and building cultural understanding, we also try to provide more job opportunities to Slovenian students and business opportunities for our economy.

Danijela Voljč, MA (Director of Confucius Institute Ljubljana)

The new One Belt One Road initiative proposed by Chinese president Xi Jinping is not only a imed at strengthening trade, investment and logistic ties between Europe and China, as two of the world's largest trading partners, but also at reviving the spirit of the original Silk Road which brought important technological and cultural exchange between Europe and China. However, many in Slovenia do not know that the strengthening of ties between China and Slovenia is not a matter of recently growing economic and political cooperation under the 16+1 platform linking China to 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). It is in fact a historical friendship going much further back to the beginning of the 18th century, when a prominent Jesuit monk Fredinand Avguštin Hallerstein rose to minister-level position at the Chinese empirical court and made several important contributions in astronomy, mathematics and demography studies.

"Hallerstein was the head of The Imperial Board of Astronomy at Emperor Qianlong's court. He dedicated his life to science, maintained relations with scientific circles in different European countries and became an important cultural link between Europe and China."

Prof. Mitja Saje, PhD (Professor of Sinology at the University of Ljubljana)

Two and a half centuries after his death, the spirit and the ideas of the original Silk Road remain as relevant as they were, or perhaps even more. As knowledge and learning hubs, Confucius Institutes (CIs) can play an important role in reviving the spirit of the Silk Road through culture, language and business education.

"The Confucius Institute Ljubljana has opened new possibilities to bring Chinese civilization, history and culture to the Slovenian people. Geographically, China is very far from Slovenia, but with the activities organized by the Confucius Institute its history and art became closer and more familiar to many Slovenians."

H.E. Mrs. Marija Adanja (Former ambassador of the Republic Slovenia in the PR China)

Confucius Institute Ljubljana: No business with China without language, history and cultural understanding

"Confucius Institute Ljubljana sets up not only a platform for Chinese language teaching and Chinese culture introduction, but more importantly it builds a bridge of mutual learning and understanding, a bridge of friendship between Chinese people and Slovenian people."

Duquan Xie, PhD (Chinese director of Confucius Institute Ljubljana)

Joining the ranks of London School of Economics, Copenhagen Business School and State University of New York, CI Ljubljana is one of only a few selected CIs located at a business school in a global network of over 500 supported by its parent organization Hanban and affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education. Opened in May 2010, CI Ljubljana is a non-profit organization and the only such business-oriented institute in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). CI Ljubljana links the basic purpose of promoting Chinese language and culture with building bridges between the business worlds of China and Slovenia, and also fostering academic business research related to China- CEE cooperation in order to support business and support policy makers. In 2013 CI Ljubljana initiated with a group of CIs from CEE and several prominent Chinese universities a new China-CEE academic research conference platform with the first biannual conference being held in Ljubljana in 2013 and the second one held in 2015 in Cracow, Poland.

"Confucius Institute Ljubljana has become a key bridge in culture, language, education and research between China and Slovenia. It has opened doors for us to collaborate with leading Chinese universities and the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, putting Slovenian science and research 'on the map' in China."

Prof. Ivan Svetlik, PhD (President of University of Ljubljana and President of the board of CI Ljubljana)

CI Ljubljana's unique and pioneering model of Chinese culture and language teaching and learning in Slovenia has been recognized by Hanban and also emulated beyond Slovenia. It is because of this unique model that more than 700 kindergarten, primary school and secondary school students in Slovenia were learning Chinese language and culture within four Confucius Classrooms (CCs) in Maribor (234 students), Ljubljana (197 students), Kranj (174 students) and Koper (98 students) in 2015.

"The Slovenian model of Chinese culture and language teaching is based on theoretical knowledge, years of practical experience of teaching Chinese and research results. The long-term goal of CCs is to establish a vertical link in the field of Chinese culture and language teaching and learning between kindergartens, primary schools, high schools and universities.CC Ljubljana developed a unique sixstep model, which forms a good basis for teaching and learning Chinese:
- Step 1: Introduction of Chinese language learning (why),
- Step 2: Articulated curriculum (how),
- Step 3: Teacher training (professional development),
- Step 4: Team teaching (combining expertise),
- Step 5: Creative workshops (encouraging creativity, project work and teamwork),
- Step 6: Social engagement (making sense)."

Tina Ilgo, PhD (Head Slovenian project coordinator of the CC network in Slovenia at Trnovo Primary School)

Plans are also underway for two more CCs in Celje and Ljubljana #2. To realize this ambitious plan, CI Ljubljana also needs to develop Slovenian sinology teachers, which will co-teach Chinese language and culture in CCs.

"Our goal is to build a solid foundation for future Chinese teaching and learning that would bring great benefit to Slovenian school system, teachers involved and to the children when facing a globalised world."

Irena Kokovnik (Principal of Trnovo Primary School).

In collaboration with successful Slovenian painter and artist of Chinese decent, Mrs. Huiqin Wang, which has been living in Slovenia for some 30 years, CI Ljubljana has also published the first two picture books in Chinese and English language about Ferdinand Avguštin Hallerstein - a Slovenian in the Forbidden City and Giuseppe Castiglione - an Italian painter in the Forbidden City.

"Based on the success of classes among our children, we have also started to run a class for their parents. We are happy that whole families are getting involved in Chinese language and culture learning."

Ana Kuhar Režek (Principal of Koseze Primary School)

"In this academic year, we are the only High School in the region which offers Chinese, the only non-European language in the school program, as regular subject. We expect to expand our activities from learning Chinese to short time exchange of students and teachers with our partner school in China. Lastly, learning and speaking Chinese will in the future also offer students abundant study and career opportunities in China."

Mišo Dačić (Head of CC Kranj at Kranj High School)

Additionally, CI Ljubljana has also organized dozens of Chinese language courses for over 150 university students at the Faculty of Economics, Social Sciences, Administration, Pedagogy and even Architecture, as well as organized individual Chinese business lessons for Slovene business people. All students attending these language classes can also qualify to obtain official HSK certification of Chinese language knowledge. Other people interested in mastering basic Chinese every day phrases can also learn Chinese for free online, through a new website

"The demand for Business Chinese is growing in Slovenia. Many Slovenian businesspeople are starting to recognize growing business opportunities between China and CEE. They are very eager to learn. For this reason, we will soon be launching a free website for learning basic business Chinese."

Zhonghui Ding, MA (Head Chinese teacher at Confucius Institute Ljubljana)

CI Ljubljana is also running a unique business elective course on How to do business with China at the Faculty of Economics in English. It is one, if not the most popular English undergraduate elective course, attended by close to 60 students from 25 different countries during the regular school year and by an additional 80 international students also during the Ljubljana Summer School in July at the Faculty of Economics.

"Within the How to do business with China course we develop the right mindset for Chinese business, build awareness of the importance of interlinking language, culture and business, and develop the right business, communication, negotiation and marketing skills. Each year, we work with on concrete projects for successful companies (e.g. Medex, TAM Europe, Eta Kamnik etc.) and help them purse business in China and create employment opportunities for our students."

Matevž Rašković, PhD (Professor of How to do business with China)

"Confucius Institute Ljubljana is uniquely situated at the Faculty of Economics and has its economic aspect as well. Because of this, it is also contributing to the development of economic and business ties between the two countries. I do hope that in the future more Slovenian companies will use the opportunities that CI is offering to them to get to know better the Chinese business environment and to gather the courage to access the big and demanding Chinese market."

H.E. Mrs. Marija Adanja (Former ambassador of the Republic Slovenia in the PR China)

In addition to celebrating all key Chinese holidays and festival, especially the Chinese New Year, CI Ljubljana also runs summer schools camps for children in Ljubljana and Novo mesto, Chinese workshops at summer camps in Dolenjske Toplice attended by more than 800 children. CI Ljubljana also organizes a large summer school for over 100 university students of different backgrounds, where they get first-hand experience with China and its people, learn about Chinese language and culture, as well as get a taste of working in China. Many of them also travel around China afterwards and some of them have started to pursue business opportunities directly as a result of this, especially in the areas of tourism and export/import business.

"It was a great honor for us to enact a special performance regarding the Slovenian Jesuit monk Hallerstein in the Forbidden City based on Mrs. Huiqin Wang's book for the Chinese New Year in order to mark the entry into the year of the Monkey."

Verica Šenica Pavletič (Principal of Savsko naselje Primary School)

All these activities have transformed attitudes towards China and the Chinese within Slovenian society. For example, as recent research by CI Ljubljana presented at the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing has shown, Slovenian business students display the lowest levels of social distance towards the Chinese among selected CEE countries and rank the Chinese fourth in terms of preference for doing more business after the Germans, Americans and Russian, and before the Serbs, Japanese, Koreans and the Polish.

"If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others. This saying speaks to the truth that China cannot develop without the world and the world cannot flourish without China."

Mrs. Liu Yandong (Vice-Premier of PR China)


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