Building Chinese Language Learning by Exploring China

IMG_5174Arguably the best (some would say only) way to learn about a different language and culture is to experience it firsthand.

Such was true for Languages Department Head Nat Simpson, who traveled to China this fall to learn more about the country and language. Now his experience has translated into a summer program for students, the first time Williston Northampton has offered such a trip to China.

Photo by Nat Simpson

With Chinese on the rise—it’s now the third most-spoken language in the United States after English and Spanish—Mr. Simpson said he saw a need to also expand Williston’s Chinese language program.

“Multicultural literacy can no longer be just an option for my students, rather a requirement as citizens of the world that awaits them,” wrote Mr. Simpson.

This year, Williston hired a second Chinese teacher, and enrollment in Chinese classes has continued to grow. In the United States, Chinese student enrollment has increased by 25 percent at the undergraduate and post-graduate level in just 2012-13 alone.

Photo by Nat Simpson

As part of a week-long program for educators, sponsored by the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, Mr. Simpson traveled to China to meet with Chinese teachers, observe classes, and interact with students at the K-12 level.

In a later presentation to the Williston faculty, Mr. Simpson noted that he had learned more about the educational system in China, which includes a strong belief in diligence, persistence, and hard work, and keju, an open and public examination system passed down through generations for over 1,300 years.

He noted that the goal of the trip was to start to establish meaningful partnerships with Chinese education institutions. In his PowerPoint, he wrote that “education is a collaborative effort between individuals…student-student, teacher-student, and teacher-teacher.”

As an extension and expansion of Mr. Simpson’s trip, languages teacher Noah Lipnick announced this week that he will be organizing a summer trip to China for Williston students. The trip will be held from July 17 through August 1, through Hanban (the Chinese Language Council International) and the Cleveland State University Confucius Institute.

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