What do you know about Chinese culture?

By staff reporter Zhang Hui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Today, June 20, 2017
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– An Interview with Dr. Liu Jinghui, Professor of California State University in Chinese Studies

Arabella Kushner, the five-year-old granddaughter of U.S. President Donald Trump, shot to fame in China after a video of her wearing traditional Chinese dress and reciting a poem in Mandarin went viral on Chinese social media. Arabella attended the Chinese Spring Festival celebrations at the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. with her mother, Ivanka Trump, on February 1.

She is certainly not the only American child celebrity to be learning Chinese. Tom Cruise recently signed his six-year-old daughter Suri up for a Chinese language-learning program. As China takes a more central position on the global stage, the world scrambles to learn Chinese. According to the World Journal of Education, there were no Chinese classes in American primary or middle schools prior to 1988. By 2000, there were around 300 schools running Chinese courses, and by 2010 the number had dramatically increased to 4,000 (including 71 language immersion programs).

Professor Liu leads students in the 2015 summer program on a field trip to an exhibition of works by the prestigious Chinese painter Qi Baishi. 

In the U.K., Chinese-speaking nannies have a much more competitive edge because increasing numbers of British parents want their children to learn Chinese from a young age, said Nina Vickery, a British language consultant working in China. The reasons behind this shift are clear. Many people have identified China's huge development potential and decided that mastering Chinese will open up more opportunities for them and their children. The well-known American investor Jim Rogers explained that his children were learning Chinese because "China will be the most important country in the 21st century" and Chinese would soon become a key world language. Fluent Chinese will be a massive asset to any child wanting to make their way in this new century. Rogers insists that "the best skill that I can give to our children is to be able to speak fluent Mandarin."

The best time to learn languages is in your teens. Whatever is learnt at this impressionable age will profoundly affect your cultural outlook and ideology for the rest of your life. The U.S. is currently the world's strongest economic powerhouse and its culture is exported worldwide. What, then, do American teenagers learn about China and how should China adapt to the growing demand for Chinese language-learning?

To illuminate the issue, China Today interviewed Dr. Liu Jinghui, coordinator of the Chinese Program at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at California State University.

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