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12 May, 2014

Learning Chinese language helps Americans know different world

LOS ANGELES, May 10 (Xinhua) — “The ancient China has a great saying which is there is nothing on heaven to fear, there is nothing on earth to fear, there is only one thing to fear that Kevin Rudd is still speaking Chinese,” the former Australian prime minister began his speech in such a humorous way.

Rudd was speaking at the three-day 2014 National Chinese Language Conference in Los Angeles that concluded Saturday.

Known that most of the 1,200 audience are educators, especially those who teach Chinese in America, Rudd expressed his thanks and honor to them.”Because your position is much more important than mine or any one else who comes from the official class. Because the future really does lie in your hands.”

Rudd, who grew up on a farm in rural area of Australia, shared with the listeners his story about learning Chinese.

In the small country town where he lived in his early life, there was only one school of less than 200 kids and four teachers.

One day, his mother, a simple country woman, gave him a local newspaper with a large photograph in which a Chinese delegate took his seat for the first time at the UN Security Council. And she said to him: “This is important for the world. Remember this day, and think about it in the future.”

The picture and his mother’s words aroused Rudd’s interest in China. When he finished high school, he went to Sydney and met members of the Chinese community there for the first time. Then he became “slowly familiar with the warmth of their hospitality, the importance in their lives of centrality of family, the essential nature of community, and the veneration for an action culture.”

“Very soon I became deeply and profoundly interested in this part of the world,” he said. He studied at the Australian National University in Canberra, majoring in Chinese history, Chinese literature and Chinese philosophy and he became proficient in Mandarin.

“In the in-dividing period since then until now whether I have either been a student, a diplomat, a business man, a foreign minister or a prime minister, is that China has been a common thing of my adult life, in all things I have done,” he told the audience.

The National Chinese Language Conference is the largest annual gathering in the United States of teachers, administrators, and policymakers engaged in teaching Chinese language and culture. The meeting is co-organized by the College Board and Asia Society in collaboration with Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban).

The United States has the largest number of Confucius Institutes and Classrooms, with 100 and more than 360 ones respectively. More than 220,000 American students are studying Chinese in these institutes in 2014.

“The Confucius Institute is not just about language, it is about culture,” David Coleman, president of the College Board, told Xinhua.

“The Confucius Institute and Confucius Classroom offer a model to build a trust (between China and America), because trust must be based on understanding. What a Confucius Institute does is that it invites students across this country to not only learn a language but to understand,” Coleman said.

From 2013 to 2014, five new Confucius Institutes have been set up. They start to work with school districts around America to promote the learning of the Chinese language.

“The Chinese language and culture in America is growing very quickly. There is perhaps no relationship that would be more important in the future in our world than for China and the United States to begin to more deeply understand one and another,” Coleman said. “We see that American students recognize that it is powerful for their future to do good work, to explore the world, to understand Chinese.”

Apart from those educators who teach Chinese in Confucius Institutes or Confucius Classrooms, more and more common people in the United States are willing to learn and teach Chinese in the country.

Jessica Beinecke, a popular journalist in China for her online video program “OMG! Meiyu”(literally, “OMG! American language”), updates her video shows for teaching Chinese people American slang and culture everyday. Her daily online show has garnered over 40 million video views.

Beinecke recently launched a program called “Crazy Fresh Chinese” to teach American students one Chinese slang everyday. “I want to empower my viewers with useful global skills and bring the Chinese language to life,” she said.

Jason Loose is a 2012 graduate of Arizona State University. After his graduation, he had a chance to spend a year in Nanjing, capital city of east China’s Jiangsu Province, studying Chinese and pedagogy. When he came back to America, he joined Thousand Oaks High School in Thousand Oaks, California, to teach the Chinese language and culture.

Loose started to learn Chinese in 2007. Talking about that, he said: “I found China is somewhere that goes with a lot of change and somewhere in the middle of fast development when I was reading about it.”

“Everyone who went there has learned so much and experienced so much. Sometimes they had even just changed a lot as a person. I didn’t always see that happening of people who are studying other languages, it seems like Chinese is the one that happens most. It attracted me to learn Chinese,” Loose said.

He loves to share his experience in China with his students and on culture days he would like to show them video clips on China to help them understand the culture beneath appearance.

“I have showed them a video about a Chinese person traveling home for Chunjie (Chinese Lunar New Year). They saw all the little things in the video that showed how important it is to be with your family on New Year day, how tight family relationships are and how important the family is in China,” he said. “That’s what we called ‘let the culture speaks first.'”

“Many young people see learning Chinese and learning this culture a way of transforming their everyday life,” Coleman said. “It’s a generation of young Americans looking for different worlds in which they can do good work.”