2011 Chinese Language Summer Program: Exploration and Immersion

  • UofC students explore Beijing. (photo by Jamie Manley)

  • UofC students pose with young women attending a training academy outside Beijing. (photo by Fangpei Cai)

  • The cafe area of the Center allowed the right light for calligraphy. (photo by James Tao)

August 12, 2011

Youqin WANG points to two charts from an article she's recently published.  The first tracks the increase in the number of students enrolled in the University of Chicago Chinese Language Program, which she's headed since 2001.  The second shows the increase of mainland China's GDP over the same period.  The charts show roughly similar inclines.

Wang and Fangpei CAI have been bringing Chinese language students from the University of Chicago to Beijing the last four summers.  The basic model of the summer program is to begin the mornings with 2-hour classes of about nine students, then to hold a second two hours with about five students per class.  During a fifth hour each schoolday, pairs of students work with a "drill instructor," a native student enrolled in a Masters program in Chinese.

The students also keep daily journals in Chinese, do a weekly photo or video report on a Beijing topic and produce final week videos of Mandarin conversations they hold with Beijingers.  Excursions provide cultural perspective with trips this year to the city of Chengde, the Great Wall, a rural school that teaches skills to young women and a temple in the mountains west of Beijing, as well as important cultural sites in the capital, including the Forbidden Palace, the Lama Temple, Olympic Village, the 798 Arts District, the National Museum, the Summer Palace, Tian'anmen Square and the National Centre for the Performing Arts.

2011 is the first year for the program to be held at the Center in Beijing.  Wang and Cai both felt this improved the teaching experience by providing better classrooms, small group study rooms and priority scheduling.  Cai believed it was easier to get the students to arrive for early classes on time because they tended to come in early to prepare.

Ji YUAN, the Senior Program Officer at the Center in Beijing, believes the 2011 Summer students were an especially attentive and dedicated group.  As he pointed out at the farewell dinner, they "proved that students actually will show up on time for 8am classes."