In the wake of increasingly intimate Sino-American economic and cultural exchanges, “Chinese fever” is only getting hotter and hotter. Not to be confused with “yellow fever”, we’re talking about language here. Banks, hospitals and a slew of other industries and businesses now offer Chinese services or translations. Mandarin Chinese education is also rapidly becoming more popular and is now the fourth most studied foreign language in elementary and middle schools in the United States.
In fact, Chinese who have just gone to America needn’t be worried about the language barrier, because the number of Americans who speak Chinese is growing. Furthermore, many industries now provide Chinese language services. Not to mention the variety of things which can be accomplished in Chinatowns across the country, from ordering food to finding a lawyer, using only Chinese. If you’re traveling in New York, you can even phone a cab using only Chinese and immediately find a Chinese driver.
Chinese phone translation services in the States are also fantastically convenient. If you’re at the bank and require translation services, just ask the teller. They will simply call a phone service that provides Chinese translation services. Without speaking a word of English, you can accomplish whatever you may need to at the bank. As soon as you request the service, the teller will ask (albeit in clunky Chinese) if you’d like Mandarin or Cantonese translation. There’s no need to be amazed, banks normally provide such services in both languages and they’re totally free for the client.
Previously, I had been to Cornell University Hospital in upstate New York to visit a friend there. Most of the doctors didn’t speak Chinese, but there were almost always Chinese-speaking interns there ready to provide their services. Some were Chinese exchange students, others American students. When I went in to see my friend=, there was a young intern named Brian who was using Chinese to ask my friend what was wrong. When he saw I had entered, he used fluent Mandarin to say, “Since you have a visitor, I’ll give you some privacy.” Curious, I asked him where he learned to speak Chinese, how his pronunciation was so good? His answer caught me off guard. He has taught in Guizhou for two years.
The American Council on Education released a general survey on June 1st indicating that Chinese is becoming more and more popular as a foreign language. It is now the fourth most studied language for middle and elementary school students and the number of students studying the language is still increasing. Currently there are also over 500 Chinese schools nationwide, in attendance, over 20,000 students. According to the Han Ban, at the end of 2016, 110 Confucius Institutes had been established in the U.S. along with 501Confucius Classrooms (孔子课堂), the highest number of Confucius Institutes and Classrooms of any country in the world.
Why do American’s want to learn Chinese so badly? Principal Zhang Changchun, of Huaxia Chinese School’s main campus, had this to say, “Following the rapid increase in China’s global stance as a world power and ever-strengthening Sino-American trade partnerships, Chinese study is undoubtedly representative of an increasing number of students studying abroad, globalizing markets and increasing number of work opportunities in fields related to Chinese language. For American high school students, studying Chinese is a path to obtaining high scores on the Chinese language portion of the SATII and something that sets them apart from other students on university applications. Some Chinese courses also count as AP courses, granting students credit upon entry into university. Apart from this, the study of Chinese is a tool to be used toward understanding Chinese history and culture. Many students begin their studies as a way to understand China, its history and people.
According to numbers from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, currently there are 4000 elementary and middle schools in which Chinese language courses have been established. The educational formats and methods of American schools vary state-to-state and town-to-town, however most Chinese language courses at the middle and elementary school levels are offered as electives, advanced preparatory courses or dual-language transitory courses (mainly in elementary schools). Course materials are selected by the individual schools or school districts. Overseas Chinese teachers are the driving force behind such courses along with volunteer instructors selected by the Han Ban and Chinese language teacher selected by American institutions.
Aside from language courses provided by schools, America has many Chinese language training schools. Many Chinese students whose families live in the states attend these schools to keep up on their Chinese language skills. Huaxia Chinese Schools is the largest Chinese language learning institution in America, having opened its doors in February of 1995. Currently they have opened 22 centers in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The number of students has increased from just 70 at the time of opening, to over 7000. The schools are no longer just for overseas Chinese, but also offer Chinese as a Foreign Language courses for non-Chinese students who may wish to learn the language.
Source: Wenxue City
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