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UVM students introduce Chinese to BTV kids after school

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Lots of kids in the Old North End are multilingual and took to learning Mandarin with ease.
NICOLE HIGGINS DeSMET/Free Press

Three University of Vermont seniors will complete their last few credits by teaching Mandarin in the Old North End before going their separate ways — and possibly on to China.

Rutland native Ian Reilly on Wednesday taught a class of grade-schoolers the word “Miàntiáo,” (pronounced: mee-an-tee-ow) or noodles in English. He wriggled his arms in a wave-like gesture and asked the students to repeat after him.

He and the other student-teachers Nicholas Palmer and Lily Kim taught the Sustainability Academy students six words for foods that are eaten in China including: Jiǎozi (gee-ode-zah) or dumplings in English. 

When asked where to find the best dumplings, one student replied “across the street!” 

Indeed, Bhutanese-Napali dumplings called momo are available at the Nepali Dumpling House on North Avenue.

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“What I find most interesting is how learning Chinese is connecting the Nepali students with their own culture,” said Ying Hu, a Department of Asian Languages and Literature professor at UVM. 

Hu described how a student, after writing her Chinese name under her English name, also wrote her Nepali name, displaying all three with pride.

This summer Hu is continuing the language instruction practicum anthropology professor Emily Manetta began last year.

“I thought it would be cool to find a way […] to offer linguistic and cultural diversity to be taught and be accessible to public school kids,” Manetta said. 

Soon-to-be anthropology department Chairwoman Manetta spent sabbatical time in Honolulu where her son was taught Mandarin, a Chinese dialect, and Japanese at a public elementary school. 

She described the Honolulu school district’s idea that for children multilingualism was natural and the opportunity to learn Japanese or Chinese was critical to their development and future opportunities.

Manetta’s grant-funded pilot program made Mandarin and Japanese available last year to elementary school students at no cost to the district. The UVM students improved their language proficiency through teaching and acquired a marketable skill.

Reilly and Kim are Chinese double majors, and the three, including Palmer, have a variety of post graduation goals.

Palmer wished he’d made Chinese his major as a junior, but he couldn’t spend the extra time and money pursuing it when he had already achieved most of a degree in mathematics.

“I’ll stay in touch with my teachers and find a way to work in China, no matter what it is. And then just travel. My end goal is fluency,” Palmer said.

Reilly also to wants to travel, but with the Peace Corps. Kim said her majors in anthropology and Chinese will not dictate her future path, which she said is unknown.

Meanwhile she said teaching opened her eyes to a possible career.

Contact Nicole Higgins DeSmet at ndesmet@freepressmedia.com or 802-660-1845. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleHDeSmet.

 

 

Article source: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/vermont/2017/06/12/uvm-seniors-teach-students/377437001/

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