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Vietnamese student Nguyen Duc Tien speaks at the 16th Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students in Ho Chi Minh City on May 26. [Photo/Xinhua]
Nong Khanh Ly, a 21-year-old Vietnamese woman, amazed the Chinese audience at a television quiz show on culture with her fluent Mandarin and formidable recall of classical poetry.
She was praised for reciting the writing of Li Qingzhao, a household poetess of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
"I like the sentimental mist that lingers among her lines," said the girl, "the more you learn about the language, the deeper you fall in love with it."
The senior student is majoring in Chinese at Guangxi University in Nanning, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
"Like most young students in Vietnam, I dreamed of going abroad after high school, and quite a number of us thought China was the best choice to see the world for both its ancient and modern civilization, which is full of charm," Nong said.
Cultural appeal is a big factor attracting her country"s youth to pick up Chinese, she said.
"Since different Chinese TV series and films online are especially popular in Vietnam, if you know the language then you don"t have to be limited by the translation," she said.
Meng Ruisen, a teacher at the International Education Institution at Guangxi University, said the institution helps make Chinese attractive to foreigners by promoting traditional Chinese culture as well as its dynamic modern civilization.
"We offer foreign students not only culture courses but also provide chances to experience day-to-day Chinese life in their spare time. During traditional festivals we hold homestays and at other times we have Chinese language corners or language competitions to improve their skills and broaden their horizons."
Chen Gang, deputy dean of the institution, told China Daily that financial support from the Chinese government is the other consideration contributing to the nation"s popularity.
In 2016, 45 percent of the 1,679 international students that studied at Guangxi University were Vietnamese.
He said geographical proximity is another reason.
"Among the students from Asian countries with full Guangxi scholarships, 20 are from the four Vietnamese provinces bordering Guangxi," Chen said.
As one of those 20, Nong gets a 1,000 yuan ($150) subsistence allowance every month apart from free tuition and accommodations.
The university also maintains close connections with 30 universities and institutions in Vietnam to facilitate the promotion of Chinese culture by organizing Chinese training camps annually, Chen said.
Nguyen Van Tung, who teaches Chinese at Hung Vuong University in Vietnam"s Phu Tho province, also noticed the growing popularity of Chinese. At his university, 120 students major in Chinese and over 600 are also learning Chinese while majoring in other subjects.
With the deepening cooperation between the two counties, it"s quite common to see Chinese tourists and business executives in Vietnam, which creates job opportunities for those who know Chinese, he said.
"I once studied Chinese at Guangxi University. After studying for four years, the 28 graduates in my class were all hired by companies and institutions with higher salaries than those who learned English," Tung said.
Chinese has become more accessible in Vietnam, he said. Most universities offer professional courses and there are various training programs to choose from or you can learn by yourself using an online class, he added.