Confucius Institute : Teaching Mandarin Chinese as a Foreign Language

” Study as if you were never to master it; as if in fear of losing it.”

– Confucian Saying on Education


Mandarin Chinese is growing in importance day by day with the emergence of China as an economic superpower. It is not too much of a stretch to say that the Chinese language will one day (if it hasn’t already) rival the English language in terms of importance due to the scope of its use.

It is thus not surprising that there is an increasing interest in learning Chinese. In this feature, I’ll introduce one institution that is ready to meet this demand. Please read on to know more about the Confucius Institute.


Confucius Institutes are non-profit public institutions that aim to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally, as well as facilitate cultural exchanges. The program was started in 2004 and is financed by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban 汉办).

The Confucius Institute (CI) at the Ateneo de Manila University is one of the leading institutions in teaching Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language. They have partnered with Sun Yat-Sen University (SYSU) located at Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China, where they assign two experts in Mandarin to join the faculty and help the Institute in teaching, training and facilitating translation and administrative work for its students.


The Confucius Institute offers the student to learn Chinese in several ways:

Language Classes

  • One-on-one tutorials
  • Corporate Training
  • Teacher Training

Language courses range from:

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advance; and
  • Business Mandarin Chinese.

The language courses are divided in cycles. Each cycle is worth 30 hours of lessons. Costs range between Php4,000 – Php5,000 per cycle. There are usually around 6-15 students per class to provide adequate attention to each student’s need. CI uses the Pinyin phonetic system as well as the simplified form of writing in class.

The faculty is composed of teachers from Ateneo’s Chinese Studies Program, Xavier school and Sun Yat-Sen University. Classes are held in two venues: Ateneo’s Loyola Campus in Katipunan and Ateneo’s Professional School in Makati.

Quick Facts:

Campus: The Makati campus has slightly more students (roughly 60%).

Students: There are slightly more women enrollees (an estimate of 60%) and around 20% are businessmen.

Age: Everyone 15 years old and up are qualified. The normal age range of enrollees are around late 20s to early 30s.

Knowledge: Students with no Mandarin Chinese background normally start at Basic 1, those who have some background usually start around Basic 3.

Teachers: Basic 1 students usually have Filipino-Chinese teachers while advance classes have teachers from China.



So why should one choose Confucius Institute for their Chinese lessons? Dr. Ulysses Yu, faculty member of Confucius Institute, pointed out the institution’s well-structured curriculum ensures the student of a systematic approach to learning. Confucius Institute has a global presence and has the support of the Office of Chinese Language Council International of the People’s Republic of China.

In fact, C.I. has been hired by different local and multinational companies to conduct Mandarin Chinese training to their employees, both from the manufacturing and service sectors to cater to suppliers, clients and other stakeholders who are mainly based in China. Some companies require their employees to pass a certain HSK level (the standardized examination for Mandarin Chinese proficiency) after these trainings.

Quick Facts

  • Students on average stay for 2 cycles (60 hours of lessons).
  • About 10% of the students go all the way to fluency around Intermediate 6. Majority of  whom have NO Chinese lineage AT ALL.
  • The crucial part of learning Mandarin is attributed to the students’ dedication, commitment and sense of purpose.


Final Thoughts

I have studied at the Confucius Institute under the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation – China Scholarship Program for 5 months. The holistic approach they used to teach Mandarin Chinese was indeed a difference maker. The use of the diverse facets of communication in reading, writing, listening and speaking was definitely valuable. I would say that my short stint with CI definitely outdid my primary and secondary Chinese education by a mile.

It has turned something I saw as a cryptic mess to an enjoyable endeavor that could unlock loads of possibilities for the future. Of course, results may vary from person to person but it is proven that accompanied with the right system and proper motivation, one can definitely go a long way.

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