Two Barrington women are spending a week in China to learn as much as they can about the best way to teach Chinese and spread the culture in Barrington.
Jeannie Salomon, the founder of the Cultural Society of East Bay and who teaches Chinese classes to children at Primrose Hill School twice a week, and Laura Pippitt, membership director for the society, left for Dalian, China, on Thursday, Dec. 8. The city is a major seaport.
Their trip is sponsored by the Hanban/Confucius Institute, a nonprofit affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education to spread the teaching of Chinese culture and language overseas. The formal title of the program is the "2011 Advanced Study and Training Program on Pedagogy and Chinese Teaching Materials."
Salomon said the workshop “will give Chinese language teachers deeper understanding of China, share best practices, as well as getting first-hand information on the latest Chinese language teaching materials and methods for teaching Chinese to students."
Salomon said she also hopes “to work out a partnership with a Chinese school for the cultural society's cultural exchange and study program (the overseas component of the curriculum).
Salomon, a native of Hong Kong, has been to China many times before. But this is the first time she will go to “see and learn about best practices for teaching Chinese” and, hopefully, develop personal relationships with other Chinese teachers.
Pippitt has never been to China.
“It’s been a dream of mine for decades,” she said. “I’ve always been captivated by the language and culture.”
Neither of them knows exactly what they face in Dalian, situated northeast of Beijing. They do know they will be participating in many workshops and visiting local schools.
“The government is behind this program because they want to make sure we use the same standards they do to teach the language here,” said Salomon. “I’m going with an open mind. I expect an international group of teachers.”
“I think it will be like the U.N., except all of us speak Chinese,” she said.
Well, almost everyone. Pippitt is still learning the language. She admits that she could be overwhelmed in China. But she has a language program on her phone that will help her translate Mandarin Chinese to English and vice versa, she said.
The women will return on Dec. 16. Salomon plans to put together a slide show and presentation to show the community sometime early next year.