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HSK gains more popularity overseas

HSK gains more popularity overseas

According to the Shanghai-based Xinmin Weekly, the number of overseas citizens coming to China has been increasing and spurred on by China's accession to the World Trade Organization and Beijing's winning of the host of 2008 Olympic Games. There has been a significant surge in arrivals from Europe and North America over the past two years. 

According to the National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Second Language, there are more than 20 million people outside China learning Chinese. 

HSK development

The number of foreigners who come to China to learn Chinese has risen by 35 per cent each year since 1997, with most coming from Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries. 

This "fever" of learning Chinese has greatly helped the development of HSK, which is unofficially dubbed "Chinese TOEFL."

In 1988, China launched the HSK to test foreigners' proficiency in the Chinese language. 

There were only around 200 examinees in the first few years. 

But 10 years later, it has developed into the most authoritative and influential national test of the Chinese language. 

According to the HSK centre of Beijing Language and Culture University, as many as 144,000 people sat HSK in 2002-a rise of 40,000 from the number in 2001. 

Over the past 14 years, about 540,000 people from 120 countries have taken part in the HSK examination in total. 

The HSK now consists of three levels: elementary, intermediate and advanced. 

Examinees are tested orally and on their grammar, reading ability and comprehension in the three-hour examination. 

The HSK has been accepted and conducted in increasing numbers of countries and is the most influential national standardized test. 

Whoever passes a certain level of the HSK can be granted the "Chinese Proficiency Certificate" issued by the National Chinese Proficiency Test Committee. 

The National Chinese Proficiency Test Committee has set up 44 examination centres in 27 cities within China, including Hong Kong and Macao, and 55 centres in 24 foreign countries.

The reasons why foreigners study Chinese have changed.

According to an investigation jointly held by the HSK centre most examination attendees in the late 1980s and early 1990s were international students who had come to study at Chinese universities.

Today, most people have taken the HSK out of consideration for their careers, because most companies require an HSK certificate when they are hiring non-Chinese to work in China.

More than 50 per cent of those from Japan and South Korea said the reason they   studied Chinese was to find jobs more easily. 

Global tide

With increasing numbers of foreign universities running Chinese language courses, demand for Chinese teachers has far surpassed supply in the United States and many other countries. 

Xinmin Weekly reports that nearly 1,000 high schools in the United States currently offer Chinese language courses, accounting for more than one third of the 3,000 high schools in the country. 

In recent years, overseas students from the Chinese mainland have established more than 200 Chinese language schools in the United States. 

Chinese has become the third most frequently used language in the United States. 

The American Association of Chinese Teachers now has 800 members-80 per cent of whom are from the Chinese mainland.

Chinese is also the third most frequently used language in Canada, where many universities have opened Chinese courses.

Due to geographical and historical reasons, Asian countries have shown more interest in learning Chinese than the rest of the world.

South Korea has taken the lead in the Chinese-learning fervour. Most universities in the country have set up a Department of Chinese Language. In addition, more than 300 high schools offer Chinese courses. The amount of Korean students in China has surpassed those from Japan.

In Japan, it is estimated that nearly 2 million people are learning Chinese. Almost all of Japan's nearly 500 universities offer Chinese language courses-85 of which have a Department of Chinese language.