World Language: Ms. Jiawei Shen
Ms. Li Sun, the long time teacher who started the Chinese program at BSM, has left and been succeeded by Ms. Jiawei Shen. Shen is from Beijing, like many of BSM’s international students, and is introducing fresh teaching methods to her students. Her style is inspired by two degrees and time spent teaching at the Concordia Language Village.Shen obtained a four year degree in general education in Beijing, plus another two-year degree in second language education from the University of Minnesota. Throughout those years studying, she also tutored students one-on-one in Chinese, which gave her training for her time at Concordia. “I learned a lot during two summers, not only in teaching language but also in teaching culture. That’s my goal for my classes now: teaching culture through language and teaching language through culture. I am planning to teach them Chinese Calligraphy which I had also taught at the Concordia Language Village. I want them to use brush and ink to write down traditional Chinese characters. It is worth [it] to mention that I have already reserved the Chinese weekend program at Concordia Language Village next spring,” Shen said.
Another cultural element that Shen would like introduce to her students is food. “I really want them to try authentic Chinese food, like spicy Sichuan-style, instead of American Chinese food. I look at Panda Express––not very traditional or authentic Chinese food,” Shen said.
Shen has faced some unavoidable obstacles during her first school year. “Our school only has one Chinese teacher, and I need to teach five levels at the same time. For me, it was a little bit hard at the beginning because I had to prepare for different level students and then decide how to balance and design my curriculum,” Shen said.
Shen stresses the importance of memorizing the characters because in China that is the only way the language is written. However, in the classroom, an alternative called pinyin, written with Roman alphabet, is often used. “Speaking and listening are the most [important] parts in my classroom. It is [also] important for them to recognize and memorize the characters and vocabulary…so they can read and can communicate with the Chinese people in the future,” Shen said.
The Chinese program is now headed by another native speaker, who will hopefully continue to expand the cultural horizons and language abilities of BSM students. At the same time, Shen aspires to bring pleasant and gratifying experiences to her students, which BSM strives for as a whole. “I hope that my students will have a great time in my class because I really want them to enjoy learning Chinese and love this language,” said Shen.