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Rural Texas High School Students Learn to Say 'Ni Hao'


Date: 6/29/2009

American students have been learning to say hola and bonjour for years now, but recently, more and more are learning to say ni hao, the Chinese version of Howdy. Interest in learning Mandarin Chinese has surged in the United States as China has risen as a global and economic power. The U. S. Department of State considers Chinese to be an essential and critical language for U. S. national security and economic competitiveness.

This year, the Confucius Institute at Texas A&M University has contributed to the interest in Chinese language by offering a pilot project to high school students in rural Texas—Navasota, New Caney and Splendora school districts. The class was taught via video conference by Chinese teacher Xing Jun, a visiting lecturer in Chinese from Ocean University of China. The instructor delivered the course from Texas A&M, while the students studied in their own schools.

The pilot project was deemed to be a success, with students from all three schools planning on continuing with the second year of the difficult language. Two of the three districts were so impressed that they are investigating the possibilities for starting their own Chinese language programs on a permanent basis.

“For the students who took the course seriously, it was a life changing experience,” said Martha Green, the project coordinator from the Confucius Institute. Green said the program was a tremendous success, with many of the students able to hold conversations in Mandarin by the end of the year. “Learning another language is a way of learning in a very real way about other nations and cultures, and this program helped these students to learn about one of Texas’ largest trading partners.

Because of her progress in the class, one student was able to go to China for an immersion language program this summer. Eliza Trujillo attended the 2009 Big XII Language Summer Camp, a joint program of the Confucius Institutes at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Kansas, the University of Nebraska, and Texas A&M. To help offset the expenses, the Navasota Education Foundation funded trip to that Eliza could improve her language skills and learn about Chinese culture. Students visited cultural and historical sites in Beijing and Shanghai and received language training in Kunming.

Randy Kluver, Director of the Confucius Institute at Texas A&M, said the Mandarin language program will continue with second year languages classes.

“This was our plan when we instituted the pilot program,” Kluver said. “We wanted to get the language program going, determine the interest and then have the schools take over the program once it was determined successful.

The Confucius Institute at Texas A&M University, which was inaugurated in 2008, is an outreach effort of Texas A&M University to help to better prepare students and the State of Texas for a global future. The Institute, in keeping with Texas A&M’s profile as a research university, is focused on increasing cultural, academic, and scientific connections with China, in addition to strengthening Chinese language teaching. To learn more about the Confucius Institute visit http://confucius.tamu.edu/.


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