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New Post 31.12.2008 14:48
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A chance to learn Chinese 

A chance to learn Chinese


Moving to Salina from a city the size ofChicago means lots of changes -- especially when that city is in central China.

But that's exactly what Li Xin will be doing at the end of this month, when she leavesWuhan for Salina. Once here, she'll teach Mandarin to students across north-central Kansas through the Smoky Hill Education Service Center.

Hiring someone to teach Mandarin -- the dominant language in China -- has been on Smoky Hill's agenda for some time, directorRita Cook said.

''I had been at a meeting and met someone from Michigan who was doing this," Cook said of the plan to teach scattered students across north-central Kansas via virtual learning.

''There's access to German and Spanish and others, but not a lot of access to Chinese," Cook said.

She said that with China's growing economy, "it looked like Chinese was going to the forefront" in terms of important languages to learn.

In addition to teaching the language to high-school students, Cook sees other roles for Li, including working on cultural awareness for younger students and possibly teaching adult classes.

''Because it's a new program, the direction we go will depend on participation," she said. "I really want to get her out there into the elementary schools for cultural awareness and to get an interest (in studying the language) as they get older."

That will include a combination of virtual learning and face-to-face interaction between Li and students, Cook said.

''We have a state-of-the-art virtual classroom," Cook said, "but what I want to do at the beginning is go out and meet the students and see where they are. It's going to take some face-to-face in the beginning."

Cook said she's found Li a home to rent when she arrives in Salina in the last week of December, and several people have donated furniture and other items to help get her started. Her first day on the job will be Jan. 5.

Teaching the language

Li, who was born in 1984 -- "the Year of the Rat" she noted -- graduated from Central China Normal University with a master's degree in linguistics and applied linguistics. She has taught Chinese to foreigners in China for two years.

In preparation for this past summer's Olympics, she taught English to many people who worked in the stadiums and on the streets of Beijing.

''The Olympics is a great pageant that the Chinese people waited for for so long," Li said in an e-mail interview. "Every Chinese did their best to make it a success. For example, many volunteers serve at the stadiums, on the streets of Beijing. I'm very happy that I could do something for the Olympics, that is, taught English in my community as a volunteer."

She also helped raise funds for the victims of China's devastating May earthquake, which killed nearly 70,000, organizing a charity performance at a local university.

''The earthquake was so devastating that I felt it in Wuhan when it happened. It is a huge hurt to the Chinese people, with so many people losing their lives," she said. "But when facing disaster, Chinese people held together to overcome the difficulty."

Li is looking forward to coming to Salina -- she has some familiarity with the United States and its culture, though she doesn't yet know much about Salina.

She took a college class called "General Introduction to the U.S. and U.K." and said many in China have been closely following the U.S. presidential election, the current financial crisis and the problems with the auto industry.

And she has lots of experience with Western brands.

''After 30 years of development, China has developed a lot, especially the capital cities of each province," she said. "Now, Walmart has opened three branches here, and we often go shopping there for its inexpensive goods. KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks also opened several branches in Wuhan."

And American movies and TV series are popular there, she said. She mentioned "Kung Fu Panda," ''Friends" and "Ugly Betty" as popular, though " 'Desperate Housewives' is my favorite."

Li said she's looking forward to introducing people in the Salina area to her language and culture.

''I think Chinese is one of the most beautiful languages in the world," she said. "I love my country, its language and its culture. I'm glad that more and more people over the world take interest in my country, its culture and its language."

And she thinks there's a practical reason for people in Kansas to learn Chinese.

''China has developed dramatically," she said. "Nowadays, more and more international companies cast their eyes to China. Especially now when the world is facing the financial crisis, China has a big piece of cake for the market. So, if the person knows Mandarin and Chinese culture, he can expect a prosperous career of his own."

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