Published: September 6, 2013
By Renee Schoof — McClatchy Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — On his first day of teaching Chinese in a Bradenton, Fla., middle school, Xu Dou showed his students the old forms of Chinese characters, so they could see how the writing has changed over millennia.
“Most of the students love the language. They think the language is amazing,” Xu said.
He said he’d explained to his class that Chinese characters were an indispensable part of Chinese tradition: “I tell them if you want to learn real Chinese, you have to learn how to write Chinese characters.”
That will take a lot of memorization and practice, but Xu’s students already have a good start. Many began learning Chinese two years earlier as students at Wakeland Elementary School, where Li Meng, another newly arrived teacher, is working this year.
Xu and Li are part of a group of 129 newly arrived teachers from China in the largest Chinese guest-teacher program, supported by the College Board and the Confucius Institute Headquarters/Hanban, a public institution affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education that promotes the study of Chinese language and culture.
Started in 2007, the Chinese guest-teacher program today is in 30 states. The largest concentrations are in Utah, North Carolina and Ohio, places with statewide Chinese programs.