Chicago stu­dents get a China ex­pe­ri­ence

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO -

CHICAGO — The Chi­nese Cul­tural Fes­ti­val, jointly hosted by the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute in Chicago and Chicago Pub­lic Schools, is a good way for Amer­i­can stu­dents to learn about China, CIC di­rec­tor Jane Lu said.

“CIC fo­cuses on pro­mot­ing the Chi­nese lan­guage and cul­ture in Chicago. There is such a need among CPS stu­dents and par­ents, and CIC is meet­ing the need. We are ac­tu­ally act­ing as a win­dow and a bridge,” she said in a re­cent in­ter­view with Xinhua.

Lu has been a CPS Chi­nese lan­guage teacher be­fore and re­mains one after tak­ing up the post of CIC di­rec­tor in 2010.

The Chi­nese World Lan­guage Pro­gram was first im­ple­mented in CPS in 1999, start­ing with three schools, but grew rapidly after the CIC was es­tab­lished in 2006. Now, some 13,000 of the nearly 400,000 CPS stu­dents learn Chi­nese daily.

Be­sides class­room teach­ing, CIC to­gether with CPS also or­ga­nizes cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, where Chi­nese in­struc­tors and schol­ars are in­vited to teach tai chi and kung fu, and speak about the Spring Fes­ti­val and the Mid-Au­tumn Fes­ti­val, said Lu.

This is the fourth year that the CIC and the CPS are host­ing the Chi­nese Cul­tural Fes­ti­val, where CPS stu­dents can see tra­di­tional Chi­nese songs and dances be­ing per­formed, learn Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy, pa­per-cut­ting, chess and paint­ing.

To give stu­dents a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence China, the CIC has been send­ing 20-30 CPS stu­dents to China ev­ery year.

Dur­ing their four- to sixweek stay in China, the stu­dents spend half their time learn­ing Chi­nese in class and the other half par­tic­i­pat­ing in cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties.

To en­able the im­mer­sion pro­gram, the CIC has es­tab­lished sis­ter-school re­la­tion­ships with the high school affiliated to Ren­min Univer­sity of China; the Bei­jing No 4 High School; the Bei­jing For­eign Lan­guages School; the Shang­hai Nanyang Model High School and the Shenyang Ex­per­i­men­tal High School.

The stu­dents then in­ter­act through pen pal ac­tiv­i­ties and in­ter­school ex­changes.

Later, the Amer­i­can stu­dents share their ex­pe­ri­ences of China with their com­mu­ni­ties and schools, Lu said.

Mean­while, CPS, the third largest ur­ban school district in the United States, re­cruited a Chi­nese lan­guage teacher from Shang­hai this year.

“The school district has a tight bud­get, but it still re­cruited a teacher from China to main­tain the qual­ity of Chi­nese lan­guage teach­ing. I was deeply moved by this,” Lu said.

Lu said that the younger a stu­dent starts learn­ing a for­eign lan­guage, the more suc­cess he or she will achieve. And through learn­ing Chi­nese, Amer­i­can stu­dents could get in­ter­ested in Chi­nese cul­ture and his­tory, which in turn would pro­pel them to learn Chi­nese bet­ter, she said.

“It is a vir­tu­ous cy­cle,” Lu said.

“Stu­dents learn­ing Chi­nese are friendly to China, and those who have been there have a spe­cial feel­ing for it, be­cause they know more about the coun­try,” Lu said.

Th­ese stu­dents will be the main force in build­ing friendly re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries in the fu­ture.

Also, China’s strong growth is pro­vid­ing pro­fes­sional op­por­tu­ni­ties to Amer­i­can stu­dents learn­ing Chi­nese.

“This is one of the rea­sons why Amer­i­can stu­dents are ready to study Chi­nese and why Amer­i­can par­ents are ready to let their chil­dren learn the lan­guage,” Lu added.

CIC is the first Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute in the United States that is housed in a K-12 en­vi­ron­ment and fo­cuses pri­mar­ily on K-12 Chi­nese lan­guage and cul­ture ed­u­ca­tion.

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