Eyeing at the growing interest of people to learn Chinese as a foreign language, China launched a website offering free Chinese lessons and materials to promote the study and use of the language abroad.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
The Ministry of Education of China says that more than 30 million people are now learning Chinese as a foreign language and more than 2,500 universities in 100 countries offer Chinese courses. The site (www.linese.com) includes audio-visual presentations, interactive exercises and advice for teachers of Mandarin Chinese, with photographs and descriptions of cultural icons such as the Great Wall, kung fu actor Jackie Chan and basketball star Yao Ming. Many of the exercises touch on China's mythical and imperial past. China is keen to expand its cultural influence along with its growing economic power, and is also setting up a network of 'Confucius Institutes' around the world to promote its culture. The website is only in Chinese and English, but versions in Japanese and Korean are being developed.