American Children’s Impressions of China Change
“My name is An Mogen and I’m 13 years old. I was born in North Carolina and I’m an American. My topic today is about learning Chinese language and sightseeing in China. I can speak Chinese language although I look like an ordinary girl. ” These were opening remarks of a blonde American girl called An Mogen (Morgan Alderman) as she gave a Chinese speech at the platform of the Confucius Institute at North Carolina State University.
Longing for China
“I had a really tough time learning Chinese at beginning. I told my mother that I wanted to give up learning Chinese, but my grandfather promised me that he would take me to travel to China if I could learn the language well.” In 2009, An Mogen went to visit China. She showed photos taken there using a multi-media video whilst making an introduction to her trip. “We saw various people in Beijing. We visited the Temple of Heaven. There is a park outside the Temple of Heaven which was crowded with people singing and dancing. We saw many fat pandas in Chengdu, some big and some small. All of them were very cute. We saw a lot of lifelike Terra-cotta Warriors in Xi’an and I really wanted to touch them.” “This was a nice trip and China is beautiful place,” she concluded.
An Mogen won first place and was second in the Chinese speech contest which was hosted recently by the Confucius Institute at North Carolina State University for the first time. The theme of the contest was that of: “My views and feelings about China”.
The Grand Prize winner was a 13-year-old boy called Ke Shanmu (Sam Kennedy). He showed his knowledge about and love for Chinese culture in his speech and won warm applause from the audience. He stated that the Four Great Inventions of ancient China still have an influence on the lives of modern people. The Great Wall in Beijing is greater than the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building. China boasts natural beauty: the Himalayas which are home to the world's highest peaks, as well as the Yangtze River and the Yellow River. Interestingly, Sam’s twin brother Tom also attended the contest and won first prize. The twin brothers have learned Chinese language for 7 years. Their parents were present at the event and thanked the Confucius Institute. They also expressed their intention to be more supportive of their children and their wishes for the Confucius Institute to continue to hold similar activities in the future.
The 15 contestants for the finals ranged in age from 12 to 18 years old and were of varying race and ethnic origin, including Euro-American, Hispanic, African and mixed Chinese/American ancestry. They demonstrated their learning achievements and love for China: some were fond of Chinese food, some liked Chinese history and architecture, while some were full of curiosity and a longing for China. They all expressed their desire to travel to China.
Chinese Course Enjoys Increase Despite Recession
A graduate from Temple University called Edward Young was amazed at the contestants’ knowledge of China. “I was in primary school in South Carolina in early 90's and most of us knew nothing about China at that time. Some only knew that China was an old and distant country. Some even thought that modern Chinese people still adopted Manchu dress and wore pigtails, skull caps and have narrowed eyes. If only we had learnt Chinese language in such Confucius Institute,” he said.
In recent decades, American children have changed—they are getting to know China and Chinese culture.
Since 1997, Chinese education has gained rapid growth in primary and secondary schools in the US, promoted by the US government. According to a national survey conducted by the Center for applied Linguistics under the auspices of the US Department of Education in 2008, those offering Chinese courses accounted for only 1% of all primary and secondary schools in the US before 1997; the period from 1991 to 2008 witnessed a general downward trend in foreign language teaching, dropping from 31% to 25%, whilst Chinese courses enjoyed an increase, rising from 1% to 4% despite the recession.