CCCC instructor brings China to life for West Lee students

Dec. 23, 2012 @ 05:02 AM

Those living in the People's Republic of China have learned something from Spiderman, said Ling Huang, Central Carolina Community College's Confucius Classroom instructor.

With that statement, she had the total attention of students in the seventh-grade social studies classes of Paula Layton, Gregg Halkuff and Ella Clark at West Lee Middle School. The students were wrapping up their unit on China, and Huang had come to give an overview of the country from her perspective as a citizen.

“What have they learned from Spiderman?” Huang said. “To live in the sky.”

She explained that many Chinese live “in the sky,” in skyscrapers. This is essential because China has a population of more than 1.3 billion people. It has about the same land area as the United States, which has a population of about 316 million. The population size is also evident on the highways.

“China used to be the ‘kingdom of bicycles,’” Huang said. “Now, there are more than 70 million cars on the roads, as well as scooters, so traffic jams are not uncommon.”

She then talked about the country, its foods, primary language, cultures and major attractions.

Students experienced a demonstration of the tonal qualities of the Mandarin Chinese language, and Huang explained that the tone, on a scale from high to low, changes the meaning of a word. The students laughed as she demonstrated that the word “má” can mean either horse or mother, depending on how it is said.

“My favorite part of her presentation was how they pronounced words and the foods they eat,” said student Ashley Martinez. “When I heard she was coming, I pictured a woman in a Chinese robe. Now I know that some people dress normal, just like we do. It also interested me that most people ride bikes; you don't see that every day. I would like to go to China and see the Great Wall.”

Slides of Chinese food, including a traditional dinner with fried duck, fish and Chinese dumplings, held the students’ attention, especially because it was just before lunch. Huang assured the students that China has many fast food chains, including McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Subway and Papa John’s.

“I liked the pictures of the fried duck and fish,” said student Tyler Barber. “The most interesting thing was hearing about Beijing and the Great Wall. I'd like to go there to see that.”

Learning about the People's Republic of China is interesting, but it also is important for the children to understand the differences between the United States and China, Halkuff said. He taught English in Japan in 1997 and traveled to China.

“I don't think the students appreciate the freedoms we have,” he said. “It's important for them to see a real Chinese person because then the things we teach them come alive; it has more weight.”

Huang said she has been to several schools and organizations in the area talking about China. She said she is willing to come wherever she is invited.

“I love to explore different cultures,” said Huang, who has also lived in Australia. “I want to tell the kids that to explore them is a wonderful experience. I hope they will take opportunities to do so.”