Diane Neubauer, a Mandarin Chinese teacher at (LFCDS) has been accepted into the Intensive Summer Language Institute, a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The six-week program, held in Changchun, China, provides non-native American kindergarten through 12th grade and community college teachers the opportunity to develop expertise in Mandarin Chinese, enhance their teaching skills, and increase their knowledge about the country where the language is spoken.
Neubauer will embark on her trip June 19 and return Aug. 4. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, and all expenses are covered, including tuition, room and board, and travel costs.
Neubauer said her interest in China developed out of an exposure to Asian countries and cultures from her youth. She spent a summer in Thailand at age 16 and had close friends in high school who were exchange students from Japan and Malaysia. Years later, Neubauer found herself living in Kunming, the capital and largest city of Yunnan Province in Southwest China, working for a company that exported handicrafts as a means of poverty alleviation.
After her time in China, Neubauer returned to the U.S. and was involved with tutoring adults and children in Mandarin Chinese, which led to her involvement in creating the Chinese program at LFCDS. The LFCDS program began five years ago with a fifth-grade class, adding an additional level each subsequent year. Currently the program is in its fifth year, includes classes for fifth through eighth grades, and culminates with an eighth-grade immersion trip to San Francisco’s Chinatown, during which students put their Mandarin skills to use with native speakers.
Neubauer said she’s excited about living in Changchun for a few weeks.
“It’s in what used to be called Manchuria, a region of China I’ve never visited, and the city from which the last emperor ruled during Japanese occupation in the 1930s and 40s,” she said. “My Chinese hometown, Kunming, is in the opposite part of the country – so this summer experience could be compared to moving from Oklahoma to New Hampshire. The culture and climate are very different.”
Participants in the program speak only Chinese during all program activities. In addition to five hours of intensive Chinese classes per day, the program includes peer tutoring in the afternoons, pedagogical seminars, home stays with Chinese families, and cultural excursions.
Neubauer said that immersion in a Chinese language environment will sharpen her Chinese skills and help her generate fresh ideas for developing a supportive, increasingly Chinese-language environment as students’ skills progress.
“Language learning takes place best in an environment where learners feel accepted, hear and read the new language often and with full comprehension, and are encouraged to express themselves in their new language without fear of making mistakes,” Neubauer said.
Neubauer plans to keep a blog to share her experiences at the Institute with LFCDS colleagues and students, and plans to bring a little of her summer home with her, as part of her fellowship includes a stipend for the purchase and shipping of educational materials.
“Learning a country’s language and culture is a lifelong process,” she says. “I’m thrilled to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity.”