Classes bring Chinese language, culture to local youth
Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 17, 2011 21:11
The Oxford Community Arts Center and the Miami University Confucius Institute are co-sponsoring Chinese for Children, an after-school class on Chinese language and culture for children in the third through fifth grades.
The classes are held at the Oxford Community Arts Center (OCAC), located at 10 S. College Ave., from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. There is a one time class fee of $50 per student. Busing from Kramer Elementary School to the OCAC is provided.
Felice Marcus, the associate director for the American English and Culture Program, came up with the idea for the language and culture class and began making plans for it over the summer.
Marcus said learning Chinese is an important skill for today's world, especially as China increases its role in the global economy. For Oxford and Miami University in particular, where there has been a growing Chinese population, understanding Chinese language and culture would be very useful, Marcus said.
OCAC Executive Director Caroline Croswell also said she sees value in teaching children about languages and ways of life outside of their own experience.
"Broadening their horizons about different cultures is very important," Croswell said.
Marcus currently teaches the class along with Singyun Song, the associate director for Miami's chapter of the Confucius Institute, a worldwide organization devoted to enhancing Chinese learning. The Confucius Institute provided $500 in grant money for transportation to OCAC from the elementary school.
Song said her role in the class is to teach students more about Chinese culture, which she plans to do through handcrafts, paper-cutting and even Chinese folk songs.
Despite the many benefits of the class, enrollment has been rather slow, according to Marcus and Croswell. However, neither of them said they are discouraged by the low numbers.
Croswell said most of the classes offered at OCAC have trouble gaining enrollment at first, but that interest usually picks up over time. She said she believes enrollment will increase in the spring.
Part of the lack of interest, Marcus said, might have its roots in the belief that Chinese is a hard language.
"The spoken language isn't terribly complex," Marcus said.
While the written form of Chinese may be intimidating, Marcus said Chinese characters are not just words, but an art. Approaching Chinese with this in mind makes learning the language less daunting and more fun.
Miami sophomore Yvonne Chen, a student from China, plans on helping Marcus and Song with the class once enrollment picks up. Chen said she has not met many American students who seem interested or know much about Chinese culture. As a result, she said she and her Chinese friends tend to keep to themselves in their small group.
Chen said she is excited about the prospect of not only teaching Chinese to children, but also increasing her own knowledge of American culture.
"My English will be improved a lot," she said.
The next session of Chinese for Children will be on Nov. 30.