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New media big trend for Chinese language study in US: expert

By Liu Li (Xinhua)

18:25, April 10, 2013

BOSTON, April 10 (Xinhua) -- New media is playing an emerging role in Chinese language learning in the United States, an expert said.

"Our students actually seek technologies even we may not give to them, so I think there's a lot more online dialogue," Robert Davis, executive director of the College Board's Chinese Language and Culture Initiatives, said during the sixth annual National Chinese Language Conference (NCLC) of the United States.

"I also think that not just Chinese, most languages are moving away from textbooks and instructions, moving much more into application," Davis told Xinhua.

"There's a variety of ways to create the environment for language learning," Davis said. "With technology and new media, much more resources are available now."

"It became much easier for students to be connected to China not just through textbooks and face-to-face communication," he added.

Davis oversees the offering of unique Chinese language and cultural education programs in K-12 schools (kindergarten-12th grade) throughout the country through a partnership with China.

Under a Chinese-U.S. cultural exchange program, Davis takes a group of American high school students every year to China for a six-week homestay to get close with Chinese families.

By using communication tools with developed technologies, the American students maintain close ties with their Chinese friends after they return to the United States. As a result, they become part of a Chinese-speaking community.

"This seems quite remarkable to us, and very interesting to the younger generation. It's quite normal and easy for them, so I actually learned a lot of the technology from the students," said Davis.

Davis, who has been working for 15 years in language education both in China and in the United States, said understanding authentic materials and using Chinese language in practical ways will be incorporated into what the students do in the future.

That is why one of the most popular topics at the NCLC is to address educational benefits of using technology and social media to create a fun language-learning environment, he explained.

Under the theme "Technology in the Chinese Classroom: Creating a 21st-Century Learning Space," participants of the forum learned how to use easily accessed technology to create projects and detailed rubrics that engage students and make Chinese relevant to their daily lives.

They looked at examples of how teachers in the Chinese classroom have used social media to supplement language education, and explored how the new media stimulate students to use language in different ways. They also learned how to use these sites to encourage students to have authentic and meaningful interactions with people in their Chinese community.

He also said the number of primary and secondary school students who are learning Chinese in the United States is swelling.

"When I travel around the U.S. elementary schools, it's very fun when you see some very young students learning Chinese," Davis said.

"It's not enough to have the basic understanding of Chinese language. What we want our students to do is being able to be highly functional in the language," he added.

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