It's hard to believe that our 4-week program in Nanjing is coming to an end this week. Since they first arrived in China, our students have had no shortage of things to do, learn, and experience.
We've already given a glimpse into some of the excursions that we've taken after class and on weekends in our previous posts, but what about the other activities that have gone on inside the CIEE Study Center at Nanjing University? What has been going on in students' classes and what kinds of new things have they been learning here in China?
Chinese Language Classes (中文课)
On their first full day in Nanjing, students were given a Chinese language interview by our lead instructor, Zhu laoshi. From their interviews, Zhu laoshi and her team were able to assign students to 1 of 4 language levels. These levels encompassed quite a range of students and language abilities, with level 1 students having little to no previous instruction in Chinese and level 4 students being upper-level, heritage speakers of one or more Chinese dialects.
From 9:00 AM to 12:00 AM, Monday to Friday of each week, students had 3 hours of Chinese classes. The instruction was given completely in the target language and was catered to each level's language learning needs.
Throughout the program, students repeatedly said that they liked the Chinese-only learning environment and felt that it was effective in helping them develop their listening comprehension skills as well as their understanding of tones, which must be said correctly in order to avoid breakdowns in communication.
Each night, students completed homework assignments to help them review and solidify the material they learned in class. In addition to homework assignments, students participated in Into the Community Conversation activities in the afternoon from Monday to Thursday of each week. On Fridays, students gave a presentation to their class about one of the topics they had learned during the week. They were given time at the beginning of class each Friday morning to plan and prepare their presentations.
In our conversations after class, students said that they liked the program structure and appreciated its rigor. They believed that being immersed in the target language was truly the best way for them to learn it. They felt that all of the assignments they were given were useful in helping them review and remember the grammar and vocabulary that they learned each day. Us Program Leaders also agree that the program structure has given students the push that they needed to improve their skills in the language and develop language learning strategies that they can take back with them to the United States.
Into the Community: An Afternoon Singing Karaoke at KTV (唱K)
For one of our Into the Community activities, we took all of the students to sing karaoke at KTV. Each of the 4 levels had to learn a Chinese song, which they had to perform for everyone that afternoon. Students started the afternoon off right with their awesome performances!
With high energy and excitement, students had an additional 3 hours to sing whatever songs they wanted (including English songs)! Inside the massive KTV singing room, some students also played billiards and mahjong.
Guest Lectures on Chinese History and the Chinese Economy by Dr. Henry Tsang
If there was one block of time that students got most excited about, it was Dr. Tsang's guest lectures. Dr. Tsang has a talent for making his lectures on complex topics easy to understand, humorous, interactive, and memorable.
From his lectures, students learned a great deal about the economic development of China as well as its modern history, which has directly impacted the rapid development of the Chinese economy. At the end of every lecture, students walked away saying, "Wow, I learned so much!" and "That was so interesting!" Sometimes they would even ask us program leaders, "Can we have another guest lecture by him tomorrow?!"
Tai Ji (Tai Qi) Class (太极课)
Taiji class gave the students a much-appreciated chance to get up and get active after a morning of language classes.
Yang laoshi taught all of us the version of Taiji that uses a large, collapsible fan. She was always very impressed by how quickly our students learned the motions and movements of Taiji. I think that the students also had a lot of fun just flinging open those big, red fans while balancing in powerful poses!
Calligraphy Class (书法课)
Once a week, students also had the chance to learn the traditional art of calligraphy from Yu laoshi, a local calligraphy teacher.
In her classes, Yu laoshi informed students of the history of calligraphy as well as its importance in Chinese culture. She taught them how to write characters properly using calligraphy ink (墨) and a brush pen (毛笔) while following the correct stroke order.
Students learned how to write one of the most important characters in Chinese, fu (福), which means good fortune, blessings, and happiness. This character is displayed almost everywhere around the time of Chinese New Year.
They also learned how to paint in a Chinese style using ink and colorful paint.
During their last class, students put their new calligraphy skills to the test by writing an inspirational message on a fan.
Body Combat Class
There is a song that perfectly summarizes the body combat class: "Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting!"
Students got to engage in intense physical training while learning about modern Chinese Kung-Fu (功夫) culture.
Photo credit: Program leaders Ruthie Stein, Jennifer Rives, and Chris Dusek