When Spring Festival Meets Learning Chinese

[Source]    People’s Daily Overseas Edition [Time]    2018-02-13 16:18:11 

On Introducing Teaching of Festival Culture

By Gao Wenyan and Luo Moyi

As the Chinese New Year approaches, local Chinese organizations, the Confucius Institute at Webster University, and two Confucius Classrooms and many teaching sites affiliated to the Con-fucius Institute have successively organized bright and fascinating activities with students and local people gathering happily to experience the traditional customs of the festivities. The Confu-cius Institute at Webster University has hosted activities in celebration of the Year of the Dog, and presidents, teachers and students from over ten elementary schools and middle schools in local areas, teachers and students from Webster University, and community residents, totaling around 500 people, have participated in the activities.

On every traditional Chinese festival like the Chinese New Year, the Confucius Institute will coop-erate with other universities and local communities to organize activities in museums, art galler-ies and the university’s auditorium. At the same time, the institute will regularly organize special lectures and special experience activities related to Chinese festivals. For the special lectures, relevant experts are mainly invited by the Confucius Institute to introduce the Chinese festival culture, including traditional musical instruments, literary works, ethics and etiquettes in college campus or local public organizations. As for the special experience activities, students, under the guidance of teachers, will participate in some activities to experience traditional Chinese handi-craft, like paper cutting, painting, tying the Chinese knot, taking part in Tai Chi boxing.

Students from the Confucius Institute at Webster University showing the character “Fu”

When traditional Chinese festivals approach, teachers should make good use of the chance to smoothly introduce their backgrounds into the classes in various forms. Firstly, teachers need to capture the story characteristics of the festivals, and, through pictures, easily-understood narra-tive and VCR, well tell the stories to the foreign students so that they have the perceptual ideas about the origins of the festivals. Secondly, teachers should present food and objects that are representative of the festivals in visualized and practical manners, and then explain the cultural embodiment of it. For example, during Spring Festival, the teachers can decorate the classroom with objects relating to characteristics such as Spring Festival couplets, Chinese knot, lanterns, paper cutting and others, play some jubilant songs as background music, and organize students to make dumplings. In this way, with the heavy atmosphere of the new year created in the Chi-nese-language class, students can listen to the teachers’ introduction of various aspects of the Spring Festival culture while having a taste of the fun for practice. Thirdly, teachers should bring similar festival culture in foreign countries into play and guide the students to compare these festivals with the traditional Chinese festivals. And in this way, maximum results can be achieved with little effort. Speaking of the importance and coverage of the festivals, Christmas and Chinese Spring Festival bear vast similarities, but there also exists some dissimilarities between them since the two festivals are rooted in two completely different cultures. Therefore, in class, teach-ers can assign the research tasks to students in which they need to compare the two festivals from several perspectives and then give presentations about the research outcomes and discuss with classmates. In this way, students will have a deepened glance at the Chinese festival culture, and cultivate independent thinking and understanding toward traditional Chinese culture. Fourthly, for foreign students with relatively high proficiency in Chinese language, teachers can stage the students a play and other artistic shows with the story of traditional Chinese festivals as materials, and encourage them to deliver the performance in the celebration activities for the Chinese New Year. By doing so, students’ interest in learning Chinese language and culture can be effectively fostered.

When introducing the culture of traditional Chinese festivals to foreign students, teachers should pay balanced attention to keep up with the pace of the era. As for the content, although the in-troduction of the cultural life in ancient Chinese society should be treated as the major aspect, the teachers have to showcase and interpret the ties between these traditional festivals and the modern life of Chinese people as abundantly as possible. It is necessary for the foreign students to sense that the cultural background behind traditional festivals with a long history still remain dynamic and vibrant in today’s world and at the same time is characterized by modern China for a new era.

When introducing traditional Chinese culture into foreign countries, teachers are very proud and eager to “inculcate” the wisdom and essence into students in the least amount of time, so they end up stealing the show from time to time. Therefore, when introducing traditional Chinese cul-ture, the teachers should adopt the approaches that are easily acceptable for foreign students, and guide them to unveil the ego and think independently, but the teachers should be aware that they cannot influence the students because of their personal likes and dislikes and preferences. When cultural comparison is being carried out, the teachers should always bear the concept of “culture equality” in mind.

Language and culture are as close as blood and flesh. Chinese language treats its profound cul-ture as the depository while traditional Chinese festivals constitute a major carrier of the tradi-tional culture and the Chinese nation virtues. As a result, during the process of promoting Chinese language internationally, making full use of various opportunities to introduce China’s festival culture to foreign students has played a bridge role in the promotion of the culture of Chinese language as well as the cultural exchanges between Chinese and foreign cultures.

(The authors are the Chinese language teachers from the Confucius Institute at Webster Universi-ty)

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