Teaching English in China
When Liz Wolensky '11 arrived in Hong Kong earlier this summer she found herself having to talk to six different people before she found someone who could understand the address she was trying to get to in a taxi. Though Wolensky has studied Chinese for two years at Haverford, the dialect spoken in Hong Kong, Cantonese, is completely different from the Mandarin she has learned. "I suddenly felt completely trapped in my communication and fully aware of my assumption that English would suffice," she says.
Wolensky and three other bi-co students, Andrew McComas '13, Angelo Ngai '13 and Andrea Tang BMC '12, are hoping to break down language barriers by teaching English in China this summer. They are interning with the Amity Foundation, an independent Chinese Christian organization that promotes education, social services, health, and rural development.
Nine students have participated in the Amity program since the CPGC first partnered with the group two years ago. (The CPGC sent ten students to China over the previous three summers to work with their former partner organization.) The China Teaching Program is split between the cities of Nanjing and Xingtang, and includes classes for mentally disabled students, children of migrant workers, and middle school English teachers.
"I chose this internship because I have been interested in China and Chinese culture for some time and want China to be a part of my future," says McComas, who believes the volunteer work he is doing is important. "China needs its youth to learn English in order to better integrate itself with the rest of the world and help in their globalization," he says.
Their first day on the job, the students toured Amity's office, a school for autistic children, and a bakery that provides jobs to mentally disabled people. "I had no idea that this organization was so expansive and was reaching out in so many ways," writes Wolensky, who has been blogging about her experiences at http://news.haverford.edu/blogs/amity-foundation/.
The school for migrant workers' children, where the quartet taught in June, prepares students for state-sponsored schools, but unfortunately many of the workers are unable to pay the enormous fees to send their kids to a school outside their home district.
The bi-co students also assisted children with autism at the Amity Home of Blessings, which runs a vocational program for the mentally disabled. They will spend July teaching English classes and explaining Western cultural and behavioral norms to Chinese middle-school teachers in the surrounding areas of Nanjing.
In addition, the Americans have volunteer Chinese partners, with whom they speak both Chinese and English. They also get to learn about China, while their partners learn about America. Some of their Chinese partners planned out an entire day for them to show them around town. One of the girl's fathers even invited his friends and treated the Americans to a dinner, explaining Chinese customs around the dinner table. "I think all of us were completely floored by the hospitality of the people here," says Wolensky, who is one of four students at Haverford to receive a John B. Hurford Scholarship.
Beyond the immediate benefits of helping the Chinese students with their English pronunciation and giving them the experience of working up the courage to talk to native English speakers, the bi-co interns are using their short time with the children to encourage them to want to study English for themselves in the future. Wolensky reflects on an old Chinese proverb: "I feel like drilling words into their heads is giving these children fish, but maybe that being there and showing interest in them is giving them a fishing pole."
--Heather Harden '11