Volunteer Chinese Language Teachers: The Messengers Spreading Chinese Culture

[Source]    People’s Daily Overseas Edition [Time]    2018-04-26 15:51:37 

A few days ago, the graduation ceremony of pre-service training for 2018 volunteer Chinese language teachers to Thailand and other countries was held at Beijing Language and Culture University, and 152 participants successfully completed their pre-service training. “I hope that in the future, volunteer Chinese language teachers will be ambitious, hardworking and responsible in their journey of Chinese teaching, and that the flowers of Chinese language will bloom in every corner of the world.” The student representative Wang Daozheng expressed the voice of all volunteer Chinese language teachers.

The graduation ceremony of pre-service training for volunteer Chinese language teachers held at Beijing Language and Culture University

Guo Jiaoyang, Director of the Division of Volunteer Affairs of Hanban, introduced that Hanban initiated the project of volunteer Chinese language teacher in 2004 in order to actively promote Chinese, improve the level of Chinese language teaching in the world, promote the oversea spread of Chinese and Chinese culture, deepen mutual understanding between China and other countries and enhance friendship and exchanges among people of all countries in the world. By the end of 2017, accumulatively, 47,000 volunteers of Chinese teachers had been sent to 139 countries and regions around the world.

The Messenger of Folk Culture Exchanges

“The level of Chinese language education varies in different countries, and in some countries, their Chinese language teaching system is not complete yet. Therefore, for volunteer Chinese language teachers, their work is pioneering as well as challenging.” Guo Jiaoyang said.

Volunteer Chinese language teachers need to adopt different teaching methods to cater for the need of different Chinese language learners. Xianyu Mengdie, who teaches Chinese language in Mizouhu Foreign Language High School, Republic of Korea (ROK), thinks that if the teaching targets are students from elementary school to high school, the teaching methods are asked to be more interesting. “After all they are still kids, and learning language is relatively boring for them. Therefore, designing some interesting games can help increase their interest in learning Chinese language. For example, I will divide students into different groups, and ask each group to sit in one row. Students who sit in the last speak out a Chinese character or phrase, which will be handed down in sequence, and students who sit in the most front are asked to write down the answer on the blackboard.”

Xianyu Mengdie teaching Chinese language in Michuhol Foreign Language High School, Republic of Korea (ROK)

Li Mengna, a volunteer Chinese language teacher in Gyeonggi-do Men’s High School, Republic of Korea (ROK), will also design various teaching programs to improve students’ motivation for learning. Apart from playing games, she will award small stickers to students who are actively answering questions, and when the stickers are accumulated to a certain number, the student can use them to exchange for little gifts.

“It works very well, and their interest is increased immediately. However, it does rack my brains to design those games. It’s so difficult!” Li Mengna said.

Li Mengna giving a trial lecture

“We are the messengers devoting to the communication and spread of folk cultures.” When talking about the feeling of being a volunteer Chinese language teacher, Li Mengna replied proudly.

Besides Chinese language teaching, volunteer Chinese language teachers will also introduce Chinese culture. “We hope that foreign students will first understand Chinese culture and then learn Chinese language.” Guo Jiaoyang said, “Volunteer Chinese language teachers not only teach Chinese, but are responsible for organizing some cultural activities, such as participating in ‘Chinese Culture Week’ and ‘Chinese Language Contest’ held in various schools, which is also an important way to spread Chinese culture.”

Zhang Longfei once taught students majoring in Chinese language at the Confucius Institute at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, Africa. Apart from the basic Chinese knowledge, he would also teach students Chinese history, geography and culture. “I once told the students about China’s ‘New Four Great Inventions’ and they are all very interested. I will also give students lectures on China’s national conditions and development status, hoping that they will have a new understanding of China.”

Tiredness Intermingling with Happiness

“With the continuous warming up of ‘Chinese Craze’, the workload of volunteer Chinese language teachers has also increased. They did painstaking work. For example, there is such circumstance where a volunteer Chinese language teacher may have to take charge of Chinese language lessons in several schools.” Guo Jiaoyang said.

For volunteer Chinese language teachers, the pressure first comes from teaching work. “Although I have received professional training in China and have majored in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language (TCSL), the pressure on giving lectures to Korean students is still great.” Xianyu Mengdie said, “The students in this school are very good, therefore, teachers are highly demanded. Moreover, I am responsible for the classes alone and have language barriers with the students, so it is really challenging.” Xianyu Mengdie introduced that now she is in charge of nine classes, and needs to give two Chinese lessons to each class each week. Moreover, she needs to take an optional course and a course for teacher herself. In addition to regular teaching work, she also has to take charge of some school activities, such as organizing Chinese contest. It’s really toilsome.

Li Mengna also admitted that being a volunteer Chinese language teacher is “very hard.” She is responsible for the Chinese lessons of five second grade classes in Gyeonggi-do Men’s High School. Each week there are three Chinese lessons for each class and three lessons for the club. “Basically when I get home, except for lying on bed, I don’t want to do anything else.” Li Mengna said with a smile.

In addition, language barrier also brings difficulties to the life of volunteer Chinese language teachers. “It will be relatively convenient for us if the lingua franca of our destination country is English, but if not, it is a little bit hard.” Li Mengna said, “At the beginning of my arrival, I would only say some simple Korean words such as ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, so I couldn’t understand what they were talking about in their everyday communication between those Korean teachers in the office. Although I am learning Korean, I was still at a loss the last time when I went to the supermarket to buy flour. I could only communicate with the shopping guides in simple Korean, or use a mobile phone to translate it into Korean and show them.” Li Mengna said that since she lives alone, apart from the tiredness caused by heavy teaching workload, loneliness will also frequently overwhelm her. “I am the only Chinese in the school, plus language barrier, so sometimes I feel really lonely.”

In spite of the great pressure from work and life, the volunteer Chinese language teachers all love Chinese language teaching very much. Feng Xiao, who has taught at the Confucius Institute at Federal University of Rio Grand Do Sul in Brazil for a year, thought it was very “fantastic” when recalling his experience there. “I have experienced the local customs and practices of Brazil, improved my teaching practices and made friends with several Brazilian. What’s more, it is very proud to teach the language of your mother country in a foreign country.” Feng Xiao said.

Growing up in Cross-culture Communication

With the continuous warming up of “Chinese Craze”, the demand for Chinese language teachers is also increasing continuously. Data had shown that Hanban has sent 6,000 volunteers in 2016 and 6,300 in 2017, and it is expected to send 6,500 volunteers this year. “Although the number of volunteers increases year by year, it still cannot meet the demand.” Guo Jiaoyang said.

“We welcome newly graduated undergraduates and in-school master students to participate in the project of volunteer Chinese language teacher. They are messengers of people-to-people exchanges between China and foreign countries, who can fully display the elegant demeanor of contemporary Chinese youth and the modern education philosophy. They are also the bridges that tell the story of China, spread the voice of China and shape the image of China. Meanwhile, the experience of being volunteer Chinese language teachers in turn will help broaden their horizon and nurture their growth.” Guo Jiaoyang said.

Tan Lili, a teacher of the Faculty of Literature & Law in Communication University of China also encourages and supports students to participate in the project of volunteer Chinese language teachers. “The going global of our volunteers can not only expand effective teaching methods targeting at students from specific foreign countries, but also further complete the country-specific Chinese textbooks.”

Guo Jiaoyang suggested that students who hope to become volunteer Chinese language teachers should make full preparation in advance: “Firstly, they should meet the standard of a volunteer, such as excellent mandarin and up-to-standard English. Furthermore, they should be able to live independently and handle problems by themselves.”

Tan Lili suggested that “the volunteers should possess solid professional skills, including Chinese grammar, pronunciation and basic principles of Chinese characters. Meanwhile, they need to know more about the culture and local customs and practices of their destination countries so as to make cross-cultural communication smoother. More importantly, they should manifest the charm of China as a great country by setting themselves as examples and cultivating students’ morality through textbook teaching.”

The experience of Xianyu Mengdie and Li Mengna is that “If you want to be a volunteer Chinese language teacher, you should first correct your attitude: you are out to do volunteer service rather than travel abroad. Secondly, you should be enthusiastic with and dedicated to your work. Thirdly, you must have the ability to deal with conflicts resulting from culture and value differences.”

(Story by Wang Yapeng, People’s Daily Overseas Edition, Page 09, April 20th, 2018)


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