Chinese Lessons on South Pacific Islands

[Source]    Xinhua News Agency [Time]    2017-02-24 16:45:50 
 

On Feb. 17th local time, Sandrine, sitting in the Confucius Classroom at Cook Islands Campus of the University of the South Pacific, watched Chinese characters shown on the multi-media teaching TV and smoothly read out the dialogues taught in the elementary course last semester. Wang Xiaoshi, a Chinese teacher from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said with relief that this student must have went over the course in her vacation.

The Confucius Classroom is set on the island of Rarotonga, the main island of the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands, made up of 15 islands, seem insignificant on a world map. These islands, separated from China by the Pacific Ocean, are literally a million miles away from China.

Why Learning Chinese

To Sandrine, learning Chinese is not only a requirement for her job, but also because of her family.

Sandrine was in charge of aid management in Ministry of Finance and Economic Management of the Cook Islands before, which gave her a lot of chances to contact with China. Therefore, the Ministry sponsored her to learn Chinese in the Confucius Classroom. Now, Sandrine has been transferred to Ministry of Internal Affairs. However, she does not want to give up learning Chinese, so she continues to study Chinese after work at her own expense.


Confucius Classroom at Cook Islands holding 2017 Spring Festival Culture Promotion Activity

Sandrine told the journalist that her grandfather and grandmother are Chinese who immigrated to Mauritius in the early 20th century. Some members from her mother’s family can still speak Mandarin and Hakka. Although she lives in the Cook Islands now, she hopes to go back to China, see her family and speak Chinese that she is learning now.


Confucius Classroom at Cook Islands holding 2017 Spring Festival Culture Promotion Activity


Confucius Classroom at Cook Islands holding 2017 Spring Festival Culture Promotion Activity

Sandrine said that she learned Chinese from scratch. Although she is interested in the language, the biggest difficulty for her is to remember Chinese characters. A few days ago, Ms. Wang brought some Chinese character cards to the Confucius Classroom after her vacation in China, which made Sandrine very happy.

After Sandrine finished her Chinese lesson, an elderly walked into the classroom and wanted to register for the elementary Chinese course in the new semester.

After talking to the elderly, the journalist knew that his name is Derek Fox, a Maori born in 1947. He was the founder of Maori Television and MANA, a magazine in Maori language. He worked as Chairman of Maori Television for a long time and now he is living in Cook Islands which is also the hometown of his wife.

Fox was a little bit worried because he needed to go back to New Zealand in the near future. He wondered whether he could catch up with the study after he went back here. Ms. Wang told Fox that he can contact her at any time and she can provide one-to-one teaching to him later. Feeling at ease, he registered for the lesson right away and will start the class next Monday.

Talking about his original intention of learning Chinese, Fox said that he is interested in Chinese and he has traveled to many cities in China 30 years ago. On the other hand, because of the more frequent communication between Maori enterprises and Chinese enterprises, it is necessary for Maori to learn Chinese.

The 70-year-old Fox is not the eldest student in the Confucius Classroom. Ms. Wang said that two respected doctors on the island of Rarotanga are also her students, who are over 70 years old.

“Teaching Radius” on the Island

The Confucius Classroom is small, but that is not the case for Ms. Wang’s “teaching radius”.


The First Primary School Chinese Culture Course in the Confucius Classroom on the Cook Islands

In addition to teaching Chinese in the Confucius Classroom at Cook Islands Campus of the University of the South Pacific, Ms. Wang also undertook the mission of training Chinese language for the staff members in the Cook Islands Fisheries Administration earlier on. During the training process, according to the needs of the Fisheries Administration for making contacts with China's deep-sea fishing vessels, Ms. Wang started with their professional vocabularies, then asked them to make sentences with these vocabularies and gradually increased the level of difficulty in her Chinese language teaching.


The First Primary School Chinese Culture Course in the Confucius Classroom on the Cook Islands

Besides, Ms. Wang also came to two primary schools in the island of Rarotonga to teach those pupils Chinese and help them develop interests in learning Chinese.

When the Lunar New Year of the Rooster arrived, lanterns were hung and Chinese paper-cuts were pasted in the Confucius Classroom with Ms. Wang’s exquisite arrangements. Dozens of people gathered to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year during the summer season of the South Pacific. She said that people on the Cook Islands know little about the Chinese culture because China is too far away, but they do show great interests. Almost everyone knows the famous movie star Jackie Chan and delicious Chinese food.


The First Primary School Chinese Culture Course in the Confucius Classroom on the Cook Islands

At the present stage, Ministry of Education of the Cook Islands expects Ms. Wang to further expand the scope of Chinese language teaching and give Chinese courses in local high schools so that students can take Chinese as an elective foreign language and apply for universities in New Zealand with Chinese language test scores. In recent days, new volunteer teaching assistants have just arrived in the island of Rarotonga. With their help, Ms. Wang initiated the plan to continue to expand the scope of Chinese language teaching on the Cook Islands.

Speaking of her decision to come to the island of Rarotonga, the 50-year-old Ms. Wang joked that "I have no idea why I had the courage to come to a place so far away." She told the journalist that she once took part in organizing the World Posts and Telecommunications Conference and only when she made the national flags did she realize that there were so many small countries in the world. What’s more, Ms. Wang’s foreign English teacher of her school days engaged a lifestyle of teaching while travelling in many countries, which she admired. So she came to this South Pacific island when she got the opportunity.


The Confucius Classroom at the Cook Islands Campus holding the closing ceremony of the first semester

Ms. Wang has a full slate of courses and she gives her lessons even if there is only one student in the classroom. Ms. Wang told the journalist that on one hand, she regards it as an opportunity to have students keep her company since the life on the island can be dull and boring, and on the other hand, she hopes the students to learn more.


The Confucius Classroom at the Cook Islands Campus holding the closing ceremony of the first semester

Hundreds of millions of years ago, movements of crustal plates separated people. Today, teachers like Ms. Wang of the Confucius Classroom shorten the distance between China and South Pacific island countries by the means of Chinese language courses.

(Story by Su Liang, Xinhua News Agency, Island of Rarotonga, Cook Islands, Feb. 18th)

 
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