Journey of a Chinese Teacher in America

As China’s economy continues to grow and it increases strength as a major player on the world stage, more and more countries around the world have taken to teaching their younger generations the Chinese language. After all mandarin is the most widely spoken language after English, which also has several sub dialects to add more confusion to non-Chinese native speakers. It is a difficult mix of tones and thousands of characters that would take an adult several years to master the basics of, this is why introducing this unique tongue to young children might help to speed up the process and make learning much easier if they choose to pick it up later in life.

A chance of a life time

Jieyi Lu an English teacher from the South of China has been teaching young children for the past 11 years, but this year to her surprise she has been accepted on a program that sends native Chinese teachers to America to teach Mandarin to high school kids. She now finds herself faced with the challenge of teaching her mother tongue to young children, many of who have never set foot in china and may never have heard it spoken or seen the characters in their lives. So far she is enjoying here stay and has noted many differences between the public school in China and Chaplin’s, Parish Hill Regional middle/high school in America. Firstly Miss Lu commented on the size of the classes that she had to teach; in China she prepared lessons for classes with 50-60 students in attendance, where as in America she had on average 5-8 students per class.

New skills for the future

The principal in charge of this cultural exchange program to the Chaplin school, Dori Smith understands that the Chinese language is fast becoming a popular and widely spoken one and realizes the benefits that students will have by being exposed to Chinese culture at such a young age. With China’s massive economic growth and large population it is almost inevitable that this generation of students will have some dealings with this country and its people in the future. Miss Lu sees this opportunity as a massive stepping stone in her career and is grateful for this chance to live and work in America. So far the school has paid for her first months living expenses, because she wasn’t yet earning a wage, Ms Lu has also had help finding a car and opening a bank account. In comparison with her hectic teaching timetable in China, Ms Lu will take 1 high school grade class through out the year and 3 separate higher grade classes in separate blocks. She has also started an extra curricular after school class that seems to be quite popular with many of the students. The main goal is not only to teach the basic spoken vocabulary and written characters, but more importantly to break the children into this totally different culture that few other American school kids will have a chance to experience at any level. Currently our adult generations going over to China to setup businesses or make connections with possible companies are unprepared and may never have ventured out of the boarders of their city or state. Without a basic understanding of Chinese etiquette or the culture, acting in a certain way could be seen as a rude or a sign of disrespect and lose you a deal even before you have started. There are online services, Chinese Translation Pro that help foreigners settle into a country, but being able to speak the language and knowing the culture would give a visitor a step up over everyone else.

Student’s reactions to Chinese

So far Ms Lu’s class has been a hit, with lots of participants enrolling in the after school class; Lu likes the fact that the class sizes are smaller, which means she has more time to give to all of the students. When asked what they thought of the mandarin, one student commented that it is more difficult than Spanish, but they are having a lot of fun trying something completely new and non-American.

Natasha M. McKnight

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