Thursday, October 26, 2006

Close Encounters of the Third Culture Kind

The other day, Professor Buchanan woke up the room when he deftly quoted a Chinese proverb... in Chinese. Apparently stashed among his many other white male educated elite privileged mad skills, he parlays the Chinese. Damn straight he does. You don't get to hang out with the signatories of the GAT treaty without dazzling talents. And he's got them in spades... and Mandarin.

When class ended, he casually tossed out: Y'all might want to learn Chinese....

Too right. By the time our kids are having kids, Chinese will be the lingua franca, or the lingua chinoise!

Caitrin is studying Chinese—ahead of the curve as all homeschoolers of blog writers are. Every day she puts on her little headset, stares at the screen that features happily married couples in red headresses, Chinese cats that look remarkably like tiger kitties and not the evil twins of "Lady and the Tramp" fame from the Siamese variety and a big blue balloon. She listens raptly and then erupts into what sounds like bad English through too much chewing gum: she-shi ni how wa shi shi kung pao chicken.

And in case you don't believe me that Chinese is the language of the future, check out Russia's change of heart from ESL (English as a Second Language) to Chinese as the best way to suck up to a big economy:

China to set up Confucius institutes in Russia
Xinhua, Oct. 18, 2006 - Chinese Education Minister Zhou Ji said on Tuesday that China will set up several Confucius Institutes in Russia next year to cope with the growing demand from Russian people to learn Chinese. The Confucius Institute is a non-profit school specializing in Chinese language education and cultural communication. Zhou said the Russian government also attaches great importance to Chinese language education and the two governments have signed an agreement specializing in supporting language teaching in both countries.

According to Zhou, there are about 10,000 people in Russia learning Chinese, up 40 percent on last year. On the upcoming China Year in Russia, Zhou said, the two sides will strengthen cooperation in language education. China will provide different types of textbooks and reading materials for different levels of learners and teaching staff will also be provided with extra teaching materials, Zhou said. A Chinese language competition will be held in Moscow next year, the minister added. China has helped to introduce Chinese as a degree course in Russian universities and supported the establishment of a Chinese language center in Russian universities, Zhou said. China will also provide audio-video teaching materials and a Chinese testing service to facilitate teaching and learning Chinese in Russia, he added.

"Language is the bridge of friendship. To expand Chinese teaching abroad is conducive to stepping up understanding between China and the world," Zhou said.

From: China Today


Matt said...

With the world getting smaller and smaller every day, learning a second language is definitely a very useful skill. My wife speaks Spanish quite well, and my daughter -- who is not yet 3 -- is already starting to count and say a few words in Spanish. I, however, am the drag on the linguistics aspect of our family -- three years of high school French, and three quarters of college Spanish, and I can't speak either of them. As I recall, the only reason I took French was because I was really wanting to figure out what Hercule Poirot was saying in all of those Agatha Christie mysteries!!

- Matt

Dave said...

It makes a lot of sense for Russians to study Chinese, given their close proximity and the economic ties. I'm not confident that the American educational system is anywhere close to prepared to introduce Chinese courses into the curriculum, for pre-collegiates anyway.

What got Caitrin interested in Chinese anyway? And how intent is she on mastering it? Who would she practice with?

My daughter has studied Japanese on her own, first because of her interest in anime, manga and J-Pop, now because she simply loves the culture. She's also had some college courses in the language as well.

julieunplugged said...

Caitrin got interested in Chinese because some Chromosome in her DNA likes characters and resists Roman letters. I think at an impressionable age, she watched the movie Mulan and was devastated to discover when it was time to learn how to read English that we used letters rather than those clever looking pictograms called Chinese characters.

She struggled mightily with reading English and used to lament that she couldn't just do the sensible thing and learn Chinese where the character told you the whole word and all you had to do was memorize the picture to know what the word should be. :)

She does read English now, but her fascination with Chinese culture, language and writing has never waned. So I finally splurged on Rosetta Stone language learning CDs and she works on it every day. It is amazing to see how this works. I have no idea if she will become able to speak or read or write, but I can't blame her for wanting to try and I know it's all good for her.

She's also studying biblical Greek faithfully every day! Maybe we have a polyglot in the making!

Matt: I agree about the value of second languages. I took five years of Spanish in school and then went on to proficiency in French (to the point of taking university courses in France in French) and conversational fluency in Moroccan Arabic. I love knowing other languages.


Dave said...

I like that Caitrin has something like an "organic" interest in Chinese - that sounds a lot like my daughter's interest in Japanese. Alyssa has eaten with chopsticks since she was about 11 or 12, I think, and really seems to have an intuitive kinship with the culture, mindset, etc. of Japan.

Keep me posted on any interesting developments in Caitrin's Chinese education!