Chinese Culture Rolls into Loy Norrix

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Ms.Xing Gao teachers the Mandarin Chinese class at Loy Norrix. She pronounces how to say several country’s names in Mandarin. Photo Credit / Bailey Handley

Loy Norrix High School recently began offering a new experience for students to take part in. Up until now, students have only been able to take Spanish, French, and Latin as a foreign language, but beginning this year Loy Norrix is offering Mandarin Chinese to any students who are interested.

Chandler Maples, a senior at Loy Norrix, decided to take Mandarin because it is going to help with his future career plans.

“I plan on going into product design after high school. I need and want the knowledge of the Chinese language so I can communicate with other cultures for business purposes,” said Maples.

Wyatt Atkins, a sophomore at Loy Norrix, is happy to be taking Mandarin for different reasons. He was getting bored of taking Spanish and wants to travel to China one day.

“I have always wanted to visit the Great Wall of China because it is one of the world’s most historical landmarks. If I do one day get the opportunity to visit China, I’d like to study the Chinese culture in a more in-depth way and try out all of their different foods,” said Atkins.

Claudia Ely, a senior at Loy Norrix, took Latin for three years before taking Mandarin this year. She says Mandarin and Latin have similarities and differences.

“The reason I took [Mandarin] Chinese was to try something new because I had already taken Latin for three years,” Ely continued, “after taking [Mandarin] Chinese for a just few weeks I have already realized the words are structured differently in each language, but the roots are the same. I am really enjoying the class and hope to someday travel to China to see how life differs from here in America.”

The new Mandarin teacher, Ms. Xing Gao, came to America from China. She is employed through the Confucius Institute at Western Michigan University and came upon the job at Loy Norrix through an interview and training process led by teachers from America. Ms. Gao graduated from Beijing Language and Culture University (BCLU). Around half of the students  who attend BCLU are immigrants from countries all over the world who are there to study the Chinese language.

Teaching at Loy Norrix is only a temporary job for Ms. Gao because she can stay in the United States for a maximum of three years with her Visa. Even though the job is temporary, she is still enjoying her time teaching American students and has realized she has to organize her classroom differently than in China.

“The students here at Loy Norrix are learning the language very well and can already say a few sentences in a row without assistance. The students in America are more interested in learning when there are games and activities involved,” Gao continued, “the students in China have a strong motivation to learn the language so they do not want to play games, they just want to hear the teacher speak so they can correct their pronunciation and perfect the language.”

Dr. Xiaojun Wang is a professor and advisor of Chinese in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Western Michigan University. He has also served as founding director of Confucius Institute at Western Michigan University from 2009 to 2011.

Originally from Beijing, China, Dr. Wang taught at Beijing Language and Culture University, as well as University of Arizona, University of Indiana at Bloomington, and quite a few other institutes. Dr. Wang takes great pride in being able to teach young people the Mandarin Chinese language.

“I became a Chinese professor to gain a better understanding of the language I grew up speaking. I wanted to be able to teach people who were learning the language for the first time not just how to speak fluent Chinese but also about all the different cultures within the Chinese language,” said Dr. Wang. “The young people have a hard time learning the language and I admire that they accept the challenge of becoming fluent in another language.”

The Mandarin Chinese language is the most spoken language in the world, with over a billion people speaking it. As Ms. Gao said, half of the students who attend Beijing Language and Culture University are not from China. This shows how important the Chinese language is around the world and how important it is for people to learn the language. With more students learning the language, the number of people using the Chinese language will only continue to grow. Now that Loy Norrix is offering this class, there will be an easier opportunity for students to learn about the Mandarin Chinese language and the culture surrounding it.

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