Why Speak Chinese?
We Asked Students To Tell Us Why, and They Answered!
By Rob de Picciotto, Assistant Director of China Learning Initiatives
The Center for Global Education at Asia Society's China Learning Initiatives is on a mission to get more young Americans interested in China and Chinese language and culture. To do this, we've been planning online activities, contests, and events that speak directly to students and potential students.
With each of these projects, we start from what we've found to be widespread challenges and obstacles to getting more K–12 students to enroll in Chinese classes. From there, we design a campaign that addresses the issue in a way that is clear and compelling for younger learners.
One of the issues we've encountered most often is the myth that Chinese is "too hard" or even "impossible." We know this isn’t true, but hearing adults and authority figures say that is nowhere nearly as powerful as hearing it from their peers around the country.
So we ran the #whyspeakchinese contest to see what current students are thinking about their Chinese-learning journeys and to serve as inspiration for students who haven't yet started learning Chinese. We want them to see how many of their peers from so many different backgrounds are learning Chinese—and loving it. The contest ran for three months, from March to May 2017, and we are extremely happy with the results of this initial effort.
In only three months, hundreds of thousands of people saw videos created by dozens of students that demonstrate the wide range of students currently studying Mandarin in the United States. Our grand prize winner is Liam Costomiris, whose video garnered more than 19,000 likes. He and his "co-star" won a trip to China! They'll record their trip, and we'll post a video of their highlights. Check out the winning video below, as well as CLI staff favorites.
We are grateful for all subscribers who got their students, families, and friends involved and—as ever—would love to hear your ideas on how we can reach students with content that gets them eager to know more about China.