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My Chinese Teaching Experiences at the University of Idaho Confucius Institute

I am wrapping up my Chinese teaching experiences in University of Idaho’s Confucius Institute (UICI) in a few weeks, though I am really reluctant to do so. Two years ago, I stepped out of my former comfort zone of life in Guangzhou, China and nervously arrived at Moscow, Idaho, to become a Chinese teacher in the Confucius Institute, University of Idaho. I had had asked myself such questions many times before I finally got here, “Is it an adventure or just making myself a goof ball?”, “Is it a challenge or just a getaway?”, “Is it going to be a series of surprises or disappointments?”

These questions have always been lingering on me in the past two years as well. Nonetheless, as I am wrapping up my trip and looking back today, the answers to these questions suddenly become clear. Adventures are exciting and full of joys; therefore, this special experience is not being silly. Challenges coexist with hopes. Therefore, when you meet with challenges, you are not escaping from but seeking for new hopes, which bring constant surprises to your unchanged life. These hopes and surprises help you explore and discover new balance, comfort and beauty of your life.

As a Chinese teacher, my primary job in the past two years is to teach Chinese. However, I have accomplished the most complicated teaching tasks and met with the most diversified students over my 25 years of teaching career. Being a full-time, part-time or substitute teacher, I have taught students ranging from kindergarten to adult community class. Therefore, students are varied not only in their ages and interests, but also in their races and nationalities. Among them, there are three or four-year old preschoolers, cute primary school pupils, rebellious adolescents, youthful high schoolers, vigorous college students, mature and rational middle-aged people, and sophisticated and experienced senior citizens. Faced with so complicated and diversified students, many a time I am suspicious at myself and do not know whether I can cater for their individual needs while trying to finish my assigned teaching tasks. Fortunately, what I can relieve myself now is that I have tried my best to make things done when I look back.

As for preschoolers and elementary school pupils, I spent most of my time on the organization and management of teaching, tried every possible means to prepare suitable and effective teaching facilities and tools, made efforts to explore and attract the kids’ interests and attention, so that they can experience and feel the charm of Chinese language and culture while learning some basic Chinese words and expressions. I believe, for kids, interest is the best teacher. So long as they develop interests in Chinese language and culture, they will have the potentials to make everything possible, not to mention to continue to learn Chinese language.

As for high school and college students, their learning ability is strong enough to accomplish various tasks independently. Therefore, language teaching should not stagnate on words and expressions. Instead, teachers should help students comprehend sentences and discourses, in order that students can become active learners from passive ones, thus passive language learning can change to active language acquisition. I personally hold that in order to realize this goal, the only effective way is to feed the students with reading materials with appropriate difficulty, so that the students can cultivate and enhance their linguistic sensitivity from constant and sufficient reading, thus further strengthening their language learning motivation and improving their language learning efficiency. The implementation of this teaching conception benefits my students a lot. Most of my students can achieve their goal of having the basic ability to listen, speak, read and write in Chinese and realize basic communicative purpose after one or two years’ constant learning.

As is known to all, language learning is not merely for language’s own sake. It is more important to know about the culture behind the language and to facilitate communications in all aspects with language as a carrier. This is especially true for some community students and short-term trainees. Their ultimate goal of learning Chinese is to help meet some practical needs in work and life, not to grasp the linguistic rules of Chinese language, for instance, Chinese Pinyin, tones, syntax, etc. They do not want to waste time on these theoretical aspects. Therefore, I deem that teaching must be more pertinent. Adult students are innately restricted in their language learning conditions. Failing memories, time shortage, mother-tongue transfer, poor pronunciation or intonation, and so forth are all negative factors that prevent them from fast learning of a language. However, teachers should not be depressed by these factors because adult students have their own advantages as well. In general, adult students are highly motivated and possess stronger analytical ability. In addition, they have stronger integration and combination than their younger counterparts. Therefore, for these students, I have to make a more customer-based syllabus and teaching plans to satisfy their individual needs, although which might be varied, from business purpose to marital factors, from travel destination to dietary reasons.

In short, my teaching experience in UICI is short but fruitful and precious for me. It not only enables me to have this opportunity to better know about the American society and participate in American education, to have chance to observe ordinary Americans’ daily life in a closer distance, but also helps me utilize my Chinese teaching experience to washback my English teaching after I return back to China.

陈洪 (Chen Hong)

First Semesters

By Dr. Rachel Halverson, Department Chair Modern Languages and Cultures

First semesters are often magical times in life. The first semester of college, the first semester of graduate school, the first semester of a new position at a new university . . .  All entail the dynamic intersection of meeting new people, getting one’s bearings in a new place, learning an incredible number of new things, and seeing the world from a new perspective. In the course of my life as a student and then as a faculty member, I have had a number of first semesters, and fall 2016 I had the opportunity to experience a first semester once again in my new position as chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Idaho. With these exciting recent weeks still fresh in my mind, I can attest to the joy that working with new colleagues and learning a multiplicity of new things brings to one’s professional and personal life. The University of Idaho Confucius Institute and its work to cultivate the study of Chinese and knowledge of Chinese culture on the Palouse have been a part of my first semester at the University of Idaho. Very quickly it has become a part my daily life here, and it has contributed to my positive impressions of the university and its commitment to providing its students with the broadest range of opportunities to become knowledgeable, multi-lingual global citizens. Each day I walk past the Confucius Institute on the way to my office, and every week I walk past the Kenworthy Theater in downtown Moscow and see announcements for upcoming Chinese films. A trip to Spokane in October included a spectacular nighttime walk through Riverfront Park illuminated by the amazing multi-colored displays that made up the Chinese Lantern Festival, a cultural event co-sponsored by the UI Confucius Institute. In 2017 I look forward to supporting the efforts of the Confucius Institute to cultivate student interest in studying Chinese and build a strong minor in the language.

莫村一季

By Yang Jianjian

2015年我走出国门,走向世界,来到美利坚,遇见Moscow,开启了“传播中国语言、弘扬华夏文明”的使命之旅。依稀记得去年9月登上前往西雅图飞机那一刻的恋恋不舍,忽然发现时针早已走过一季。当初决定留下,原来真的对了。从初出茅庐的毕业小生,到现如今工作、生活的游刃有余,真心感谢遇到的良师诤友,感恩你们的携手相助、谆谆教诲。

我的汉语教学之路从Moscow Charter School开始。过去一年MCS的汉语学习人数从一开始的6人变成现在将近60人,看着孩子们一天天从‘你好,我叫…’到‘我喜欢…我家有…’的转变,作为一份子的我,喜悦之情溢于言表。当然,这一切离不开孔子学院的积极努力与开拓。强大的团队造就了更好地自己。教学工作稳扎稳打之余,文化活动也是有声有色。中国电影之夜、中国美食俱乐部、Palouse中国论坛、中华武术兴趣小组等一系列活动不仅给我的工作增光添彩,也让爱达荷大学校园刮起了一阵又一阵的“中国风”。“你好、再见”这一声声来自陌生面孔的问候,总能不经意间传入你的耳畔。

新学期,志愿者队伍迎来了新面孔。为了让新人

可以安心、投入的工作,作为前辈的自己必然要帮助小伙伴尽快适应异国他乡的生活。但身在异国,难免思乡,作为过来人我很明白新志愿者的心情:饮食差异、文化交际不适应、气候多变身体难适……幸运的是,有了自己过去一年的历练,一切都变得顺利、自如。报道注册、办理手续、安置家务……等到所有的事都变得妥当安适,自己不然而然的成就感满满。

虽然国外生活让我变得越发老练,但工作上的难题偶尔也会让我无所适从。新学期,我接手了中文社区课。这对于一个过去一年一直从事小学生汉语教学的志愿者来说,无疑充满挑战。教学对象从小孩子变为成年人,相应的教学方法、内容也必须重新设计、规划。第一次走进社区课堂,面对着一群与自己年纪不相上下甚至大于过自己的成年人,说真的,很紧张:生怕自己在讲课的时候会出错、难以解答他们的问题。然而随着时间的推进,我才发现一切忧虑都是多余的:由于先前的充分准备,我的紧张疑虑并没有过分占据自己的神经,加上学生们原来是如此的和蔼可亲,课堂氛围一下子变得轻松、活泼。对于中国,他们是如此的好奇与着迷:饮食文化的丰富多彩、书法技艺的高超精湛、剪纸中国结的妙趣横生让他们无不惊叹中华文明的博大精深。当然,就像绝大多数西方人一样,

社区课学生最感兴趣的必然是武术课。因为李小龙、成龙、李连杰等一大批武打明星在好莱坞闯下的一片天地,中国武术对美国人而言充满了未知的好奇与神秘。功夫课上,学生们一个个竭尽模仿武术老师的各个招式,虽然未能达标,但那股子认真劲儿,和那副憨态可掬的模样,着实让人又敬又爱。在此,我要特别感谢爱达荷大学孔子学院的武术老师柳娟:如果没有柳老师的全情投入和帮助,我的社区课也不会变的如此顺利。[抱拳]

时间总在不经意间从指缝悄悄溜走。年终岁末,秋季学期就要结束了。在感恩节即将到来之际,我要借此机会向所有的爱达荷大学孔子学院的领导、老师和志愿者们表达我诚挚的感恩与问候:感谢你们这一年的关爱与帮助,是你们让我变得越来越好。祝大家身体健康、节日快乐、工作顺利。