American Student Immersed into Chinese Culture
On a day just like any other, a group of master’s students are chatting away happily on The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK) campus. Among them is a non-Chinese student, who converses fluently in Putonghua with no sign of any communication barrier with his fellow students.
Robert Laureano Hall is the first Master of Arts in Teaching Chinese as an International Language (MATCIL) student coming from a Western country since its inception. Like many others who are passionate about Chinese culture, the American student adopted a Chinese name.
“My Chinese teacher in college chose this name for me. The Chinese surname ‘He’ comes from my surname Hall, and ‘Bo’, which sounds a bit like my nickname Bob, carries a meaning of being broadly knowledgeable,” explained he.
As the son of an American father and a Puerto Rican mother, Bob was always sensitive to languages. For a large part of his life, he communicated in both English and Spanish on a daily basis. He found himself captivated by Chinese culture when he went to China on an exchange at the age of 18, when he was still a major in computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Upon returning to the United States, he changed his major and started studying the language in earnest, from listening and speaking to reading and writing. Twenty years have passed since his first exposure to the language; Robert can now converse easily in Putonghua and read and write fluently in Chinese.
In Chinese, there is an old saying: “Everything is difficult at the beginning”, and learning a new language is no exception. Robert recalled when he started learning Chinese, he had to look up the headlines of Chinese newspapers character by character, and constantly check the dictionary for their meaning. It was his passion for the language that kept him going.
A favourable environment is important when it comes to language learning. Robert’s plan is to apply for the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) after completing the MATCIL programme to acquire further experience in classroom teaching. He hopes to teach Chinese in international schools in either Hong Kong or Taiwan. “I look forward to sharing my experience in learning Chinese and the challenges I encountered with my future students.”
EdUHK launched the MATCIL programme in 2008 to nurture professionals with both Chinese language knowledge and teaching skills. “Apart from exposure to pedagogical theories and Chinese cultural education, students have the opportunity to experience classroom teaching through a field experience setting in Hong Kong or China,” said Dr Cheung Lin-hong, Associate Professor at the Department of Chinese Language Studies and MATCIL programme leader.
According to Dr Cheung, MATCIL students can also apply for the new IB Teaching Strand after admission. “Those meeting the relevant requirements will be eligible to apply for the International Baccalaureate Certificate in Teaching and Learning (Diploma Programme),” added he.
Details of MATCIL programme: www.eduhk.hk/fhm/en/page/matcil-homepage