Dr. Yong Ho, Chinese Language Supervisor of UN Chinese Language Programme, is awarded ‘UN 21 Award’ Again

[Source]     [Time]    2014-12-19 17:24:20 

Scene of the award presentation

Every year on the United Nations Day, a day that marks the anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations, the Secretary-General will present the ‘UN 21 Award’ to outstanding members of staff. In 2014, Dr. Yong Ho, Chinese Language Supervisor of the UN Chinese Language Programme, was presented the ‘UN 21 Award’ under the category of service beyond the call of duty by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon for his outstanding contributions to the Chinese Summer Study Programme at Nanjing University.

It has been 13 years since Dr. Yong Ho started to work for the UN Chinese Language Programme in 2002. As the supervisor of the programme, he is in charge of the design of Chinese courses, employment of teachers, selection of teaching materials and formulation of syllabus. Every summer, he will bring UN members of staff from around the world to participate in the Chinese Summer Study Programme at Nanjing University. And the ‘UN 21 Award’ is the best return for his outstanding contributions to the programme.

The ‘UN 21 Award’ was founded in 1996 by Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then UN Secretary-General. As part of the Secretary-General’s reform, this award is intended to commend UN members of staff who have made innovation, improved the efficiency and had outstanding performance in UN projects and services.

The ‘UN 21 Award’ is not new to Dr. Yong Ho who was already given the award a dozen years ago. But he expressed his surprise at winning the award again after all these years.

Dr. Yong Ho

Dr. Yong Ho, “I am a little surprised that I won the award this year. About eleven or twelve years ago, we got the award as a team in the Division of Languages. At that time, the divisions of the UN did not have their own websites, so we Division of Languages decided to design websites for ourselves. Then a dozen websites suddenly appeared overnight, for which I was given the award. Since then I have never thought about or been concerned about winning the award again. This time I was nominated by my students, but I didn’t notice that until one day a student came to tell me that I should go to a ceremony the following Friday. I am kind of surprised.”

Language learning requires language environment, which is especially true for learning Chinese, one of the world’s most difficult languages. This is why Dr. Yong Ho decided to bring students to study Chinese in China and set up Chinese training classes for them.

Dr. Yong Ho, “We believe that if one wants to learn Chinese well, he or she needs to learn it in the actual language environment. In 2003, we contacted Hanban to see if we could set up a UN language training programme in China, which Hanban welcomed this proposal. Then we carried out a series of plans. Hanban provided funding and then Nanjing University took on the programme. Nanjing University was selected for the following reasons: first, it is one of the best universities in China; second, it has close connections with the UN and has cooperated with the UN at multiple levels. At the high level, we know that Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali received an honorary doctorate degree from Nanjing University, and many professors from Nanjing University participated in a variety of UN programmes. In 2010, the University also conferred an honorary doctorate degree on Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Actually I already made a suggestion about this earlier to Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang who graduated from Nanjing University. It has been a great encouragement to our training programme that Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon went to receive the honorary doctorate degree from Nanjing University in 2010.

The UN Chinese Summer Study Programme at Nanjing University has been successfully held for more than ten years, and many interesting things happened during the trainings. For instance, some students found their spouses when studying at Nanjing University.

Volunteers and children

Dr. Yong Ho, “We have a French translator who participated in the study programme three times. Meanwhile, there is a training course for American teachers at Nanjing University, which provides trainings for those teachers who are teaching Chinese in the United States. Our French translator, a gentleman, met a lady who was taking the training course for American teachers, and they fell in love at first sight. The lady took the course for twice or three times, and then they got to know each other, and eventually they got married. They now have two children, and their story is a happy anecdote of our programme.”

Dr. Yong Ho said that at the UN, students who learn Chinese are less than those who learn other languages. Yet this leads to small classes, which gives them an edge to learn Chinese well.

Dr. Yong Ho, “The number of students learning Chinese might be less than those learning French or Spanish. But there are good points in having a small number of students as well. Teachers can know them better, and everyone in the class know one another very well, just like in a big family. We can organize many activities. For instance, we have cooperated with Pace University for Spring Festival activities, and the University has a very good stage for us to give performances. This Spring Festival we organized the UN chorus to perform there, and next year we are going to continue this activity.”

Dr. Yong Ho expressed that apart from traditional classroom instruction, Chinese language teachers are keeping up with the times by using such forms as high technology and multimedia to conduct teaching. He then took delight in talking about a present given by Hanban to the team of the UN Chinese Language Programme.

Dr. Yong Ho, “In our team, there is a Chinese Culture Experience Center, which is actually a computer system with a big touch-screen. Like a small museum, when you touch the name of a place in China on the screen, you will get videos, audios and many other materials right away. Our teachers are using it for teaching every day.”

A group photo

As for the prospect of the UN Chinese Language Programme, Dr. Yong Ho expressed his hope that more courses would be set up and various teaching methods would be used to make students benefit most from Chinese learning.

Dr. Yong Ho, “Now we have many other programmes which will probably attract more students to learn Chinese. For instance, the UN is now trying out a flexible working method. In addition, the divisions of the UN have a need for studying Chinese as well. The nature of our Division of Languages is now gradually changing. In the past, we only provided services for staff members in New York, but now we serve all the divisions of the UN Secretariat worldwide. Our service modes are diversified, including setting up courses for students in various places. These courses might be taught online, so we are now discussing about how to integrate classroom instruction with online teaching, a method called blended learning. If possible, I hope to set up more courses. Now we have optional courses such as calligraphy and multimedia, and students can benefit a lot from them.”

Dr. Yong Ho added that in the future, the UN Chinese Language Programme would become better and better. During the talk, we got a feeling of confidence and expectation from his expressions and eyes.


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