by Marzia De Giuli
CREMA, Italy, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- A growing number of Italian teenagers are studying Chinese and are joining the activities of the Confucius Institutes in their country, local officials said at the inaugural ceremony of a new Confucius Classroom in the northern town of Crema.
Chinese is a curricular language for 156 students out of a total of some 1,600 at the Luca Pacioli Technical Institute in Crema, located in Italy's most industrialized district Lombardy region, whose capital city is Milan.
For 20 of the state-owned institute's students, Chinese language will also be a subject of the school-leaving examination next year.
"We are studying Chinese three hours a week, we all know it is to become an increasingly important language in the world," 17-year-old Martina Manzoni told Xinhua.
The student, who was able to pass the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) Level II, a proficiency test on Chinese language for non-native speakers, said she was confident that the new Confucius Classroom will help her to further improve her level by using advanced teaching methods and modern technologies.
"I dream of a job able to take me to the Eastern part of the globe and make me discover new worlds. I cannot wait to travel to China next spring. Our teachers have transferred a lot of their passion to us," Martina added.
"There is a cultural aspect, which is the profoundness of China's traditions, and a business one, which has to do with the future of our teenagers," the institute head Giuseppe Strada told Xinhua.
"Eastern countries are the markets of the future," he noted, wishing the new Confucius Classroom will help young Italians "open their minds wide" to catch all the opportunities offered by the knowledge of Chinese language.
There are presently 10 Confucius Institutes and 14 Confucius Classrooms in Italy. They provide language courses, organize cultural seminars and workshops providing a model for Sino-foreign educational and cultural exchange.
"Teaching of Chinese language has significantly increased in Italy in recent times and has spread from universities to high schools," Counsellor of Education of the Chinese Embassy in Italy Zhang Linyi told Xinhua.
"An increasing number of high schools would like to establish Confucius Classrooms, which is a clear sign of growing interest," she said.
Sharing her view, the Italian director of Confucius Institute at the University of Milan, Alessandra Lavagnino, especially stressed the role played by the Confucius Institutes in bringing Chinese language to high schools, which have less teaching experience compared to universities.
More high school students able to speak Chinese means more university students with an increased cultural baggage. "And we are happy to see that the final result is a raising of the overall level," she told Xinhua.