Chinese Seeds Sowed in Alabama

[Source]    People’s Daily Overseas Edition [Time]    2017-04-18 17:43:35 

Students showing their works in a Chinese class

My colleague Yuan Qunying, a Chinese teacher and I made some initial achievements in Chinese teaching three months after we arrived in Dothan, Alabama, the US. When we met students in school’s corridors, they would greet us politely in Chinese, and we would say goodbye to each other in Chinese when the class was over. Once I met a boy in the canteen, he greeted me enthusiastically in Chinese: “Ni hao ma (how are you doing)”. It surprised me because this kind of sentences was not a focus in our class. I happily greeted him back. He responded with confidence. This made me, a new Chinese teacher in the US, feel really delighted.

After learning numbers from zero to one hundred, students gradually mastered Chinese expressions of age and date, and combined the numbers with some basic information of China such as the world-famous Great Wall, two major rivers, the three well-known mounts and the five great mountains, the four great inventions, and fifty-six ethnic groups. Students also learnt how to call for help in case of emergency in China. Then we began to teach them colors.

The video of Fuwa, the mascot of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was used as a lead-in. Blue, yellow, black, green, and red——they are the colors of five fuwas as well as the Olympic Ring, corresponding to the “wu xing”—the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water). Through panda Jingjing, one of the five fuwas, students learned black and white. They also knew that Jingjing(晶晶) was the homophone of “jing” derived from Beijing (北京), the capital of China. During the review session, we introduced the colors of the rainbow, including red, orange, yellow, and green by using the character “Rainbow Dash” in the well-known cartoon My Little Pony. We also used taichi diagram, with characters yin(阴) and yang(阳) on it, to help them review the color black and white. A grade-four boy spotted that the black side (Yin) has a white dot in it, and the white side (Yang) has a black dot in it. I made good use of this chance and introduced Chinese concept of harmony as well as the Yin and to them. This is so-called “to inspire at the right moment.”

Given colors’ different symbolic meanings in different cultural backgrounds, we introduced the implication of colors like red (marriage, Chinese Spring Festival), white (funeral), and yellow (imperial power) in Chinese tradition and customs as well as facial makeup in different colors by using the song Rap and Beijing Opera. Through painting Chinese facial masks like Monkey King and Qingyi, students reviewed the Chinese expressions of colors. On Christmas Eve, we used colorful cards to go over those expressions with them, taught them how to say “Merry Christmas” in Chinese, and encouraged pupils from higher grades to write the greeting down on their cards.

As for my colleagues and me, the greatest harvest is the students’ enthusiasm for Chinese learning and free use of Chinese after class. Meanwhile, we have got affectionate hugs from students. Even the local teachers participated in our class. They practiced what they had learned and answered questions in class together with students. When the pupils were sitting in the carpets of different colors in class, teachers like Forehand from the preschool, Aman of the grade four, Tice and Mullen of the grade five of Kelly Springs Elementary School would name colors in Chinese to ask the students to stand up one by one according to the color of their carpets.

Kelly Springs Elementary School is the first to offer Chinese courses in Dothan city. Speaking of Chinese courses, Ms.Wanda Dismukes, headmaster of the school, stated that Kelly Springs Elementary School enjoyed a multicultural background. Chinese courses offered a great opportunity for students to learn different language and culture and to recognize the similarities of different cultures while embracing differences. Students loved the Chinese courses very much. Teachers and parents also gave a positive feedback. Wanda expected to create a multicultural atmosphere in school through the course.

Established in 2015, Kelly Springs Elementary School is one of the Chinese teaching points of the Confucius Institute of Troy University in Alabama. Each new Confucius Classroom and teaching point has witnessed the determination, pioneering and devotion of the Confucius Institute of Troy University. Till now, eight Confucius Classrooms and twenty-one teaching points have been set up in places like Montgomery and Troy by the institute.

Reviewing the history of the Confucius Institute of Troy University, Prof. Xu Hong, US Director of the institute, said with gratification “Without geographic advantages like Spanish in Alabama, a state near Mexico, the development of Chinese courses and Chinese cultural activities was greatly challenged. Together with teachers in the institute, I’ve travelled over 130,000 kilometers around Alabama, visited more than one hundred schools, delivered over 250 lectures, developed 270 ‘Chinese Corners’ and various large-scale activities. I organized 27 visits to China. During these visits, a total of 120,000 participants including college and middle school students, artists, and celebrities in political, business and educational circles in Alabama had the opportunity to appreciate Chinese culture. Now Chinese culture is no longer new to local residents. When Chinese tourists come here, they will be greeted with Chinese, and even have brief conversations in Chinese with locals at the airport, hotels and restaurants. The Confucius Institute of Troy University is spreading Chinese culture seeds over Alabama. The institute itself has also developed from one single office to a well-equipped independent office building”. Looking forward to the future, Director Xu said with passion, “Confucius Institute of Troy University will utilize existing resources to disseminate Chinese and Chinese culture in Alabama, strengthen cooperation with other Confucius Institutes in southeastern America so as to boost the “Chinese Fever” in the US, and contribute to China-US relations.

(Story by: Tang Qing, People’s Daily Overseas Edition, Page 9, Apr. 14th. 2017)


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