From May 17th to May 19th, 2018, the 11th session of National Chinese Language Conference was co-held by Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban), the College Board and the Asia Society in Salt Lake City, Utah.
About 1300 people attended this conference, including education officials from the US, primary and secondary schools heads and college presidents, Chinese language teaching experts and teachers. They exchanged their views on the development trend of Chinese language teaching, shared their experience in teaching Chinese language and discussed the meaning of language and culture exchange.
At the opening ceremony, Utah senator Howard A. Stephenson said in his speech that during his term as a Utah senator for the past 26 years, among other over one hundred bills he proposed, he felt the proudest of those related to language learning. He expressed his gratitude to those volunteering professional teachers with Confucius Institutes and pointed out that progress made in language learning in Utah has been relied on their commitments. He felt very confident about the teaching quality and skills of those volunteering teachers because he had witnessed the selection of education officials in Utah and also the training for those volunteering teachers.
Utah Senator Howard A. Stephenson
In his point of view, monolingual education can be regarded as illiteracy in the 21st century. Considering the importance of sincere and frank communications between China and the United States, maximum efforts should be made to provide Chinese language learning for US students nationwide at this point. He would never stop promoting language learning especially Chinese language learning even after his term.
Gary Herbert, Governor of Utah said the business languages in Utah number over 130, among which Chinese language is the most important one. The percentage of Chinese language learners to the total population in Utah is larger than any other states due to trading relations with China and other factors. About 20% students in Utah learn Chinese language, which means one fifth of Chinese language learners in the US are in Utah.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert
There are 93 schools where classes of Chinese language are taught in Utah, among which 47 schools have programs teaching Chinese in immersion methods. In these 47 schools, students learn Chinese language from kindergarten to college. Bilingual learning paves the way for international trade which can enhance international exchanges and provide opportunities for people in different countries to understand each other through communications, thus strengthening stability of the world as a whole.
Tony Jackson, Vice President of the Asia Society applauded the significant role National Chinese Language Conference plays in Chinese language teaching in the US. He also thanked the Utah state government for its supports and the College Board and Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) for their cooperation. In his speech, he said this new generation of people in both the US and China faces many unprecedented challenges. The things they do separately and together will reach record-breaking scale and carry significant weight, thereby making the role of teachers ever more important.
All teaching staffs here are nurturing key figures who will further the relations between China and the US. Those key figures include not only those diplomats-to-be, but also those young people who will work in business, science, technology, security another areas. They will determine whether the cooperation between China and the US in all these areas succeed or not.
Linda Liu, Vice President of the College Board said she felt both happy and awkward when she visited one school offering the program of learning Chinese language with immersion methods this morning because she found that those students in the first or second grade outperformed her in Chinese language. The theme of this conference this year is from Class to Career. Driven by curiosity, she searched jobs requiring Chinese language proficiency on LinkedIn and the number of that is 395,000, which was surprising. All these jobs are not limited to teacher, and marketing, medical care, financial services among others are also included, which highlights the importance of multidisciplinary learning.
Teacher’s classroom teaching should help the students to learn how to use the knowledge creating more career options for them. The College Board is willing to help teachers and students through various projects. At the same time, the Board also expressed its appreciations for the supports from its long-term partners, Hanban and Asia Society.
Zhao Guocheng, Deputy Chief Executives of the Confucius Institute Headquarters and Deputy Director-Generals of Hanban, pointed out in his speech that in recent years, in response to the strong demand of the American public for Chinese language and culture, the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) and the U.S. communities have joined hands to establish Confucius Institutes, dispatch Chinese volunteer teachers, organize Overseas Chinese Principals’ Tour to China and summer camps, and share excellent practice cases of Chinese classroom teaching. With the above projects and beyond, they have created rich learning channels for hundreds of thousands of Chinese learners in the United States. They have also exemplified the positive changes in individual students and schools participating in the Confucius Institute (Classroom) program.
Zhao Guocheng, accompanied by interpreter and recent University of Utah graduate Tyler Kohring
He emphasized that we must strive to nurture the next generation as talented people with international perspectives, which concerns not only the children’s personal future but also the future of the world. Against the backdrop of economic globalization and cultural pluralism, it is even more important for us to maintain communications and exchanges among peoples from different countries. Learning to understand each other's languages, trying to understand the cultural differences and showing respect and understanding to each other can make us sustain the harmony without uniformity and seek common development with joint hands.
John Holden, Chief Executive Officer of the US-China Strong Foundation, tells the story of himself learning Chinese and doing Chinese related work in his keynote speech. When he was 19, he started learning Chinese out of his interests in Chinese culture. His father who did the educational work thought this was a beneficial and useful attempt. The fact proved that his father was right. Learning Chinese has indeed created more possibilities for him and made him become an international citizen.
Holden is currently working to encourage young Americans to learn and use Chinese in their career. He believed that it is a magical thing for Chinese and American students living on both sides of the ocean to engage in the cross-cultural spiritual exchanges by learning each other's languages.
This session of National Chinese Language Conference held the opening ceremony with the theme of "learning from class to career". It held 4 plenary meetings, including "Global Perspectives on Chinese Teaching", "Cultivating a Communicable Global Workforce", "Utility View of Utah's Chinese Dual Language Immersion Project" and over 90 sessions including "The Confucius Institute's Contribution to the Education Culture between China and America from the View of Talent Cultivation”. At the same time, there were Chinese immersive teaching seminars, Chinese language teaching resources exhibitions, and visits to the Sino-British bilingual immersive project schools in Salt Lake City during the conference.
Delegates said that the topics of this conference were closely related to the development trend of the Chinese teaching in the United States and the current reality, which have provided a platform for mutual discussion and exchange for the Chinese teachers. As a result, it has significantly promoted the educational exchanges and cooperation between China and the United States and played an important part in developing Chinese language teaching in the United States.
Students from NYO-China performing
At the opening ceremony of the conference, the hosts were two students graduating from the Confucius Classroom at the Wasatch Primary School under the Confucius Institute at the University of Utah. Two other students from Lehi High School and Skyridge High School Confucius Classroom performed the Sichuan Opera Face Change, and the NYO-China also offered wonderful symphony performances.
Since its inception in 2008, the National Chinese Language Conference has been held once a year. It is the largest Chinese teaching seminar blanket recognized by the U.S. education community and the cumulative number of participants totaled more than 10,000.
This article was originally published in English on the Hanban website.