HAVANA, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Interest in learning the Chinese language is soaring in Cuba, reflected in an enrollment spike at the Confucius Institute in Havana and the growing demand to expand Chinese language classes in several universities.
"Following the resumption of in-person classes after the pandemic, we noticed a growing interest in learning the Chinese language," Yorbelis Rosell, Cuban director of the Confucius Institute, told Xinhua.
The institute, located in the heart of Chinatown and near the University of Havana, now has an enrollment of over 450 students studying at various levels and offers multiple courses in Chinese culture, including calligraphy and traditional Chinese medicine.
Rosell explained that this growing interest led to expanding the language's reach to various university schools involving law, tourism and international relations.
The young professor, who holds a doctorate in communication sciences from the University of Havana, said that China's relations with Latin America have boosted the Cuban people's interest in the Chinese language.
"Anyone aware of national and international current affairs, from the political and commercial perspective, logically would have some interest in the Chinese language as a way of getting closer to China as a world power," she said.
In 2022, about 1,400 Cubans enrolled in the Confucius Institute, and nearly two dozen students graduated from the advanced Chinese course at the end of the year.
Anibal Pedroso, 22, was initially motivated to study Chinese at the institute because he worked at a Havana hotel, but later the need turned into pure pleasure.
"It was more of a necessity, but once I began at the Confucius Institute, the teachers, the warmth and the culture attracted me a lot," Pedroso told Xinhua.
He said knowing Chinese is essential for his work since he must communicate with hotel guests who speak different languages.
Cubans of various ages are motivated to learn Chinese, which serves as a cultural bridge between the two geographically distant but historically close countries.
Some fifth graders from the nearby Antonio Maceo Elementary School come to the institute every Thursday to learn Chinese.
"They have been studying for a year," said Claudia Jimenez, the class teacher, "and demand to continue their Chinese classes."