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Mandarin in the 21st

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[Photo of Mandarin statue]

I grew up in a traditional Chinese family in the Philippines. So I’m familiar with Chinese cultural celebrations and, through

personal interactions and exposure to local media, I learned to speak Tagalog and appreciate Filipino culture. I was educated in a traditional Chinese school, where I honed my English, Filipino, and Mandarin communication skills.

China is, undoubtedly, the biggest potential market of the 21st century. Establishing Sino-foreign exchanges and cooperation today has become the next big thing in expanding trade and business—which has led to a rise in the interest to learn Mandarin.

I began teaching Mandarin 10 years ago. To this day, my ability to speak three languages and culturally relate to my students helps me become a more effective foreign language teacher.

In July 2007, the China Scholarship Council granted me the opportunity to join a workshop at Beijing Normal University. The workshop began on my second day in Beijing. As I entered the classroom, I was startled to see people of varying nationalities, all of them Chinese language teachers in their own countries.

Our instructor introduced himself and had us introduce ourselves in Mandarin. I was impressed on hearing my co-participants from Egypt, India, Italy, Poland, America, and France speak fluent Mandarin.

The workshop followed a straightforward routine. Weekday mornings were reserved for lectures and afternoons for troubleshooting teaching difficulties or workshops that introduced various elements of Chinese culture. We tackled many topics, from the Psychology of Language Teaching to the Latest Chinese Movies and Novels. Our Chinese culture workshops included paper cutting, Chinese knotting, opera, Taiqiquan, and calligraphy.

During weekends, my classmates and I explored different places in the city. We visited the wholesale market catering to locals. The market is called “Senior Citizens’ Park” because many elderly Chinese hang out there and dance the cha-cha or boogie. These little trips provided us with a great opportunity to practice our language skills.

The workshop also included a week-long tour of nearby cities, such as Anyang, Kaifeng, Luoyang, and Xi’an. I looked forward to seeing the historic and scenic sites I knew so well only from my childhood studies. I was excited to see such pivotal symbols of Chinese history and culture, such as the oracle bones, the inscribed steles, and the Marco Polo Bridge.

The highlight of the scenic tour was in Xi’an: the famous Terracotta Army. Upon reaching the site, we saw a giant statue of Emperor Qín Shǐhuáng on the horizon, which marked the entrance to the different pits where one could view the excavated Terracotta warriors and horses. As we entered each pit, our local guide announced that the three pits did not contain all the Terracotta figures; excavations are still ongoing.

The trip gave me a deeper appreciation of my field of expertise. Now, the knowledge I impart to my students will no longer be based merely on my Chinese heritage but also on a larger perspective of China.

The training workshop not only refined my Chinese grammar and teaching methodologies, it also sparked two realizations. First, the vocation of teaching Chinese is now more global than ever before as teachers from various countries and nationalities share the mission of preparing people for the world’s next prime mover. Second, as a Chinese language teacher, I must continuously study new cultural trends and linguistic usages so I can teach beyond the borders of a textbook.

Print ed: 02/09


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