From The Associated Press:
One of the first Confucius Centers in the United States was at the University of Kansas, near where I grew up. Qian has asked about teaching at the school, but there are only subbing opportunities available since their full time teachers are all on exchange programs from China (ie. they don't hire locals). This is unfortunate since Qian would be a great asset to the Confucius Center.
Image from Chinese-tools.com
TAMPA, Fla. — In a small room at the University of South Florida, Maya Ueda and two classmates prepare for a Mandarin exam. A pot of green tea idles nearby and Chinese folk instruments, games and movies fill the cabinets and bookcases.
Although the students are doing their work at a state school on Florida's Gulf Coast, the center they are studying in is part of a global outreach by the government of China called the Confucius Institute. The cultural and language centers have sprung up around the world, hosted at universities eager to boost their Mandarin offerings as China's economic influence grows....
China observers see the Confucius Institutes as part of the nation's efforts to reshape its image from that of a threatening superpower. Such displays of "soft power" are hardly new, though analysts say the Confucius Institutes are unique in the close relationships they establish with universities.
Qian put an ad on the internet a few weeks ago for tutoring Chinese. The ad has worked pretty well. She has three students - two adults and a young girl - already. None of them have any experience with studying Chinese. Qian has been really impressed with the talent of the students though. They're all doing pretty well with the language.
A fellow China blogger just wrote a really long and in-depth analysis of studying Chinese. The title of Ben's post - Journey Across the Great Hump: Debunking the Myth that Chinese is the World's Toughest Language.
Ben grew up about five minutes from me here in the suburbs of Kansas City. Although I've never met him in person, I think it's interesting how we both ended up going from Kansas to China and falling in love with the place.
I'm really impressed with Ben's studying of Chinese. He's currently acting as a translator in Chicago. He seems to have taken a similar path as Peter Hessler did in Rivertown - a book I highly recommend to anyone interested in China. Both Hessler and Ben attacked Mandarin and learned it very quickly.
Unfortunately, I did not learn the language as quickly as Ben did. I was too intimidated when I first started and was more interested in learning "survival Chinese" than really perfecting what I was doing. This lack of time and effort in the beginning made my Chinese path much more arduous than Ben's. Whereas he got to a very high level in about two years, I'm still at a more intermediate level after studying for about two years. I regret that I didn't tackle the language more head on when I first got to China (I really wasted my first year linguistically in China thinking I was only going to stay for a year and then come back to the States... I ended up staying for three and a half years).
There's nothing I can do about how I learned Chinese now though. So I'm just trying to do the best I can after my rocky beginning. Although I've left China (for the time being), I'm continuing to use my Supermemo study method and am trying to use Chinese as much as possible on a daily basis with Qian.
I'm not sure I can say that I've cleanly crossed Ben's "Great Hump," but I'm relatively happy with my level. I've crossed many personal "humps." The way I'd put where my level is is that I can have fun with Chinese now. I can chat fairly easily in one-on-one conversations. I still get tripped up from time to time, but I can tackle a wide array of issues and topics. I can't understand a lot of what goes on on TV and am not ready to be a translator, but I'm having, and have had over the past year, a lot of fun. And since starting studying Chinese more seriously about two years ago or so, that's been my goal.