双语阅读:汉语热助中国年轻人走出国门

  When she started college in 2000, Tang Guofang didn't chose a popular major such as computer science or business administration that would have given her an edge in China's increasingly competitive job market. Instead, she enrolled in a newly launched course that attracted only a handful of students and puzzled her parents: Teaching Mandarin as a Second Language.

  Equally vexing to them was her decision to take a job teaching Mandarin in Thailand after graduation. But for the native of Guilin, now 27 years old, working abroad for two years or more made perfect sense. 'I knew that if I stayed in China, my path in life would have been set out for me, whereas if I lived abroad, I would develop a different understanding of the world,' says Ms. Tang, who now teaches 8-year-olds at an international school near Bangkok.

  Meet a new breed of Chinese migrant worker: young, educated and hungry for new experiences and international travel. Although the West has been churning out globe-trotting English instructors for decades, thousands of young Chinese are now discovering that teaching Mandarin is an increasingly feasible way of funding foreign adventures. They're returning to China transformed by their experiences, and with a fresh, international outlook. 'I wanted to go out of the country and have a look around the rest of the world,' says Liu Shiming, a slight 31-year-old who taught in Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, for a year in 2005 and 2006. 'For us Chinese, international travel has become easier, but it's still not that easy. So I thought teaching would be a good way to get to see the world.'

  A few years ago, Ms. Liu and her fellow instructors might have struggled to find students. Now, they're being welcomed with open arms as more people world-wide rush to learn China's official language amid the country's expanding influence. Only about 25,000 students in American public schools were studying Mandarin in 2000. Since then, public school systems in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Houston have stepped up Mandarin instruction, doubling that number, according to estimates by the Asia Society, a New York nonprofit organization aimed at boosting U.S.-Asia ties.

  Six-year Bangkok resident Jackie Thompson, 41, from Australia, has both of her children, Georgina, 11, and Sam, 7, take Mandarin classes. 'We're looking at 15 years down the line, when Georgina has graduated from university,' she says. 'If you have three people interviewing for a job -- one speaks Spanish, one speaks French and one speaks Mandarin -- we're quite sure that it's the Mandarin speaker who's going to get the job.'

  Mandarin fever runs especially high in Asia, where countries are directly feeling China's economic, political and, increasingly, cultural clout. Thailand and South Korea are planning to introduce Mandarin classes in schools, and Thai officials have said they hope a third of all high school students will be enrolled in Chinese language classes within five years. In Bangkok, private Chinese language centers have mushroomed, while an increasing number of international schools are boasting about their trilingual curricula in Thai, Mandarin and English. Mandarin schools are even opening in Indonesia, where the language was banned for more than three decades as an anti-Communist move by former dictator Suharto.

  For its part, China is happily exporting Mandarin teachers as part of a campaign to expand its 'soft power' by promoting its national language. Beijing has been upfront about its language ambitions, saying it wants 100 million Mandarin students world-wide by 2010, compared to the current estimate of 40 million. To meet those goals, the government's National Office for Teaching Chinese, known as the Hanban, has since 2004 opened language and cultural centers called Confucius Institutes in more than 30 countries and sent overseas more than 2,000 volunteer teachers, with the largest numbers going to the U.S. and Thailand.

  Young Chinese are heeding the call in droves to convert the world to Mandarin. Last year alone, the Hanban received about 11,000 applications for its volunteer program (teachers receive a stipend of $400 to $600 a month), of which about 1,000 were accepted, says Xue Hualing, the program's director. More universities are offering Teaching Mandarin as a Second Language as a major, says Mr. Xue. And young Chinese are also filling jobs teaching Mandarin at private schools and centers throughout Southeast Asia. Liu Xiaoying, a mainland emigre who runs a Mandarin school in downtown Bangkok, says she's seen an increase. 'When the school started 10 years ago, it was pretty hard to find teachers. Now I've got these young Chinese coming to me,' she says. 'They hear Thailand is a nice, relaxed place, look it up on the Internet, and then decide to come here to check it out.' While there are some communication problems between non-Thai-speaking teachers and their students, the teachers say, the language barrier is typically no worse than for other foreign-language teachers.

  Many of these young people view language teaching as a way of seeing the world. Others think foreign experience will make their resumes stand out. Some Mandarin teachers in Thailand use their time abroad to attend graduate school, which would be too competitive to get into at home. And still others are fleeing from the daily grind of an office job. 'Many of my classmates, after we graduated, all they did was just move on to work for a company. I think this sort of work is a lot more interesting because when you're teaching a language, you're teaching culture at the same time,' says Ariel Wang, a 25-year-old from Shanghai who teaches 7-year-old kids in Bangkok.

  Unlike their Western counterparts, who might congregate around pubs and other night spots after work, many of these young Chinese language teachers lead austere lives overseas because of their determination to save money and uncertainty about navigating a foreign country on their own. Ms. Tang admits that her social life centers on her fellow teachers. 'Life at home for my friends (in China) does seem richer, more varied,' she says.

  Despite their circumspect lives, the teachers do inevitably gain new perspectives about themselves, their culture and their country that they later bring home. Ms. Liu, who taught in Bulgaria, says she had no idea that the Chinese were considered loud until she and her colleagues drew disapproving looks at restaurants in Sofia. 'Many of the shortcomings of our culture and the way we carry ourselves, it's magnified when you go abroad,' she says.

  Jin Junfang, who spent a year in Connecticut in 2005, says her family was startled when she announced, after returning from the U.S., that she was going to cut off all financial support to her son when he turned 18. Ms. Jin, 36, says she reached that decision -- in reality a more extreme method of encouraging filial independence than many American parents would consider -- after long discussions about parenting with her host family in Connecticut and her own observations of American teenagers. 'My family and friends find it shocking, but I want my son to be independent,' she says. 'In China, they always teach children to be careful and parents support their children their whole lives. But in America, they teach you to do things by yourself no matter what the risk.'

  Some teachers take note of political differences between China and other countries. 'Americans care more about politics than Chinese. They care more about the outside world than the Chinese,' says Zhou Zhichang, a 26-year-old Beijing native who also taught in Connecticut, in her case during the first half of 2006. Ms. Zhou recalls her amazement over a social studies teacher at her Connecticut school who drove six hours to Washington, D.C., in order to take part in a demonstration about Darfur, the war-torn region of Sudan. 'Few Chinese would care about another country,' she says. 'We're wrapped up in our personal matters like getting a job, finding a home and getting married.'

  Asked what she thought of the American teacher, Ms. Zhou says he was 'a hero.' But she quickly adds, 'Not that we could do the same thing in China. We're not at that point yet. We're still a developing country.'

  当2000年填报高考志愿时,唐国芳没有选择能让她在中国竞争日益激烈的就业市场获得一些优势的电脑或工商管理等热门专业。相反,她选择了一个新开设的、报考学生不多同时也让她的父母大惑不解的专业──对外汉语教学。

  同样让她父母感到不解的是,她决定在毕业后接受到泰国教习汉语的工作。但是对这位今年27岁的来自广西桂林的年轻人来说,到国外工作两年非常有意义。她说:“我知道我要是留在国内,我的人生道路就已经有人给我设定好了,可我要是到国外生活,我会对世界有不同的理解。”唐国芳如今在曼谷附近的一所国际学校教一群8岁大的孩子学习汉语。

  中国新一代的赴外工作人员大都年轻且受过良好的教育,他们迫切希望到国外游历,获得新的经历。尽管西方国家向全球各地派遣英语教师已有几十年的历史,但数以千计的中国年轻人发现,到国外教授汉语现已成了越来越可行的获得海外经历的途径。来日回国时,他们也会发现,海外的经历让他们脱胎换骨,拥有了全新的国际视角。今年31岁的刘世茗(音)2005年至2006年期间在保加利亚首都索非亚从事过一年的教学工作。她说她想走出中国,看看外面的世界。对中国人来说,到国外旅行已经变得比以前容易了,但还没有到易如反掌的程度,因此她觉得到国外教学是一个了解世界的好办法。

  几年前,刘世茗和她的同事或许要费尽九牛二虎之力才能招来学生,但现在,随着中国影响的不断扩大,全球各地有越来越多的人希望学习汉语,教汉语的教师也日益受到人们的欢迎。2000年时,美国的公立学校中只有约25,000名学生学习汉语。那以后,芝加哥、纽约、费城、洛杉矶和休斯敦等地的公立学校都加强了汉语教学,根据纽约非营利组织亚洲协会(Asia Society)的估计,学汉语的学生数量迄今已经增加了一倍。

  今年41岁的澳大利亚人杰姬?汤姆森(Jackie Thompson)已在曼谷生活了六年。她的两个孩子──11岁的乔吉娜(Georgina)和7岁的萨姆(Sam)──都在学习汉语。她说,他们的着眼点是15年以后,那时乔吉娜该大学毕业了。如果到时候有三个人同时争一份工作,一个讲西班牙语、一个讲法语,而另一个讲汉语,那么最终得到这份工作的肯定是讲汉语的那个人。

  汉语热在亚洲尤其火爆,这里的国家都会直接感受到中国的经济、政治影响以及越来越多的文化浸染。泰国和韩国都计划在学校中开设汉语课程。泰国官员表示,他们希望在五年内能有三分之一的高中学生学习汉语。在曼谷,私立汉语培训中心如雨后春笋,而越来越多的国际学校也在大力宣传他们同时开设的泰、英、汉三语种教学。甚至印度尼西亚也开设了汉语学校,该国前反共独裁者苏哈托(Suharto)当政30多年的时间里一直禁止人们使用汉语。

  就中国而言,它也愿意输出汉语教师,通过推广汉语提升其“软实力”。中国政府在这方面表现出了勃勃雄心,声称到2010年时要使全球各地学汉语的学生数量达到1亿人,目前的数量据估计在4,000万上下。为了实现这个目标,国家汉语国际推广领导小组办公室(National Office for Teaching Chinese, 简称:国家汉办)从2004年起在30多个国家开设了被称为孔子学院(Confucius Institute)的语言文化中心,向海外派遣了2,000多名教师志愿者,其中前往美国和泰国的人数最多。

  中国年轻人对向世界传播汉语的号召作出了热烈的响应。国家汉办志愿者中心主任薛华领说,仅在去年,国家汉办的志愿者计划就收到了大约11,000份申请(教师每月获得400至600美元的津贴),并从中选择了约1,000人。薛华领称,越来越多的大学都开设了对外汉语教学专业。中国年轻人也在东南亚地区的私立学校和教学中心从事着教授汉语的工作。在曼谷市区开设了一家汉语学校的中国大陆移民刘晓英(音)说,教师数量比以往增多了。她说,10年前开设这座学校时,很难找到教师。现在这些年轻人加入到了教师的行列中。他们听说泰国是一个很美、很休闲的地方,就在互联网上查找资料,然后就决定来这里体验一下。这些教师说,尽管不会讲泰语的教师与学生间存在一些交流问题,但这种语言障碍通常不会比其他外语教师更严重。

  在这些年轻人中,有许多都将传授语言视为了解世界的一个途径。也有人认为海外经历将会提高他们简历的含金量。在泰国的一些汉语教师利用在海外的时间参加研究生学习,这会令他们归国后更具竞争力。还有一些人是借此逃离繁琐的办公室日常工作。25岁的Ariel Wang来自上海,在曼谷给一群7岁大的孩子上汉语课,她说,她的许多同学在毕业后都进入了公司工作,而她认为这种工作更有趣,因为在教授语言的同时也是在传授文化。

  海外的西方教师工作之余多喜欢聚集在酒吧或其他夜生活场所,而与他们不同的是,多数年轻的中国汉语教师都在海外过着俭朴的生活,因为他们决心攒钱,而自己在国外也让他们感到不稳定。唐国芳承认,她的社交生活主要就是与同事在一起。她说,她在国内的朋友们好像更富有,生活也更为丰富多彩。

  尽管这些教师们过着淡泊的生活,但他们注定会获得对自身、对他们的文化和国家的新的认识,并最终带回国内。在保加利亚教学的刘世茗说,她以前并不了解别人认为中国人太爱喧哗,直到她和同事在索非亚的一家餐馆吸引了其他人不满的目光后才认识到这一点。她说,当走出国门后,自己文化中的许多不足和为人处事的方式就会变得更加突出。

  广告金俊芳(音) 2005年在美国康涅狄格州生活过一年。她说,从美国回国后,她宣布将在儿子长到18岁以后取消对他的所有经济资助。听到她这么说,她的家人都惊呆了。今年36岁的金俊芳说,这种培养孩子独立性的做法实际上比许多美国父母做得还要极端,但她是跟她在康涅狄格寄宿的美国家庭进行了长时间的讨论和结合自己对美国青少年的观察后做出这个决定的。她说,她的家人和朋友都对此感到吃惊,但她希望她的孩子能够独立。在中国,家长们总是教育孩子们要处处小心,父母们会管自己的孩子一辈子。但是在美国,不管有怎样的风险,父母都会告诉孩子们自己动手。

  一些人注意到了中国与其他国家的政治差异。2006年上半年来到康涅狄格教学的北京人周志畅(音)说,美国人比中国人更关心政治,他们比中国人更关心外面的世界。她回忆道,在她工作的康涅狄格这所学校,有一位社会学教师开了六个小时的车赶到华盛顿,就是为了参加有关苏丹达尔富尔问题的一场示威,这令她感到非常惊奇。她说,很少有中国人会关心另一个国家。我们都在为个人的事奔波忙碌,如找工作、找房子、结婚,等等。

  在问到她对这位美国教师的看法时,周志畅说,他是一位“英雄”。但她很快又说:“我倒不是说我们在中国也能这么做。我们还没到那一步。我们还是发展中国家。”

分类:英语美文 | 人气: | 时间:2015-11-13 01:21:19 | 发布:美文
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本文标题:双语阅读:汉语热助中国年轻人走出国门

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