Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Mandarin for all?

I suspect this story, that a small US college will be sending students to China to learn Mandarin, is just the beginning.

The article begins, as is often the case with journalists, with an example of some sixty year old studying in China. I cut to the chase.

Small college sees Mandarin as a must [ChicagoTribune.com]

With China an ever-growing player in the global economy, educators are searching for ways to prepare students to compete. In recent years, Mandarin Chinese-language classes have taken their place alongside Spanish and French in many American schools, at all grade levels.

More than 7,000 Chicago Public Schools students from preschool up now take Mandarin classes, the largest such enrollment in the country, city school officials say. The College Board offered its first Advanced Placement exam in Chinese language and culture last May. On the college level, the number of students taking a Chinese language class grew by 51 percent from 2002 to 2006, the Modern Language Association reports.


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China hosted 8,830 U.S. study abroad students in the 2005-06 school year, up 38 percent from the previous year, according to the Institute for International Education's survey. The United Kingdom topped the list of destinations, but China ranked second behind Argentina's.

"I think China is already a big player right now in international politics, and it's only going to become more so," said Dan Woodall, 23, one of those departing in August for the College of Lake County program. Woodall, of Buffalo Grove, works full time at a luggage and travel store in Skokie. After he returns from studying abroad, he hopes to transfer to the University of Chicago to study international relations.



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4 comments:

Bill said...

"The United Kingdom topped the list of destinations, but China ranked second behind Argentina's."

Really ? UK is on first, for sure. But who is on second ?

Bill said...

"7,000 Chicago Public Schools students from preschool up now take Mandarin classes"

There are probably 70,000 public school students of Chinese dessent in Chicago system. 7,000 is too small.

Anonymous said...

china must stop
1. supporting burma's military junta which violates human rights
2. supporting sudan's government which has caused genocide of black africans
3. destroying tibetan culture by moving in Han Chinese into Tibetan territory

Susan said...

When in Rome, why not let the Romans teach you?

In Huangshan (黄山) southern Anhui province in Eastern China, Fu Shou-Bing logs on to the computer in the public library near his village. Since discovering ECPod.com (http://www.ECPod.com), the retired High School Chemistry teacher has been logging on almost every day to the English-Chinese teaching website. Sometimes he cycles the 25 miles home, cooks himself a simple lunch of rice and stir-fried vegetables with salted fish, often returning once again to the library and his new hobby in the evening.

ECPod.com boasts an educational website that teaches members conversational English or Chinese (no "this is an apple" stuff here) via video clips contributed by other members. After a vetting and often transcribing process by language tutors commissioned by the site, the clips are available free of charge in YouTube fashion. The twist? Members film each other in everyday activities, hoping other members will learn not just their native tongue, but also cultural innuendos lost in textbooks and more conventional means of language learning.

"One member filmed himself cooking in his kitchen. We got a few emails asking what condiments he used," says a bemused Warwick Hau, one of the site's more public faces. One emailer even wanted to know if she could achieve the same Chinese stir-fry using ingredients from her regular CR Vanguard (华润超级) supermarket. "We often forget our every day activities may not be as mundane to people on the other side of the world," Hau adds. Another such clip is "loaches" - a Chinese mother of 3 filmed her children and their friends playing with a bucket of loaches - slippery eel-like fish the children were picking up and gently squeezing between their fingers.

Lately the members have also begun to make cross-border friends and contacts. The ECPal function works much the same way sites like Facebook.com and MySpace.com work - members can invite each other to view their clips and make friends. And it has its fair share of juvenile humor as well. “Farting Competition” features two teenagers and graphic sound effects. Within several days, the clip was one of the most popular videos that week, likely due to mass-forwarding by the participants’ schoolmates.

For other members keen to learn more than the fact juvenile humor is similar everywhere, there are many home videos featuring unlikely little nuggets of wisdom. “The last thing I learned from the site is why you never find green caps for sale in China”, says Adam Schiedler one of the English language contributors to the site. Green caps signify cuckolded husbands, particularly shameful in China as they are a huge loss of face. Adam vows not to buy any green headgear for his newfound friends.

The subject matter of the videos often speaks volumes about its contributors. Members choose their own content and film the clip wherever they please, some of their efforts drawing attention to rural surroundings and the quaint insides of little homes otherwise not seen unless you backpack your way thru the tiny dirt roads and villages along the Chinese countryside.

Idyllic countrysides and cooking lessons aside however, ECPod marries the latest video sharing technology with the old school way of teaching a language - from the native speakers on the street. It's a modern, more convenient alternative to spending 6 months in China. And why not let the Chinese teach you?

Visit http://www.ECPod.com