Kearsney welcomes Mandarin Chinese teacher

2014-05-29 00:00

BEFORE she arrived in South Africa earlier this month, Jing Wang (27) was teaching English in China. Now she’s swapped languages around and is teaching Chinese to English-speaking pupils at Kearsney College.

Wang, who hails from the city of Fuyang in China’s Anhui province, has been sponsored by the HanBan Confucius Institute in Beijing to teach Mandarin Chinese as a curriculum language at Kearsney, together with Chinese culture.

“People say Mandarin is the most difficult language in the world to learn,” said Wang. “But this is a mistake. If you follow the lessons step by step you can master it without a problem.”

Wang’s arrival sees Kearsney as one of the few schools in South Africa offering Mandarin Chinese as part of the academic programme.

Kearsney headmaster Elwyn van den Aardweg said it was vital that boys were offered the opportunity to study Mandarin if they were to effectively operate and excel in a global economy.

Mandarin was introduced at the school in 2005 for members of the Kearsney choir who were travelling to Xiamen, China, for the World Choir Games in 2006. Since then it has been offered as an elective subject in Grades 8 and 9.

Kearsney’s partnership with the Confucius Institute builds on that foundation and takes it to a superior level, said Van den Aardweg.

Twenty-five Kearsney Grade 8 pupils have signed up for the subject this year.

“It’s a good opportunity,” said Michael Lee (14), one of the 25 Kearsney pupils. “There is a lot of trade with China and learning to speak Chinese will help with business.”

“I think it’s a great language,” said Yaaseen Mohammed (13), “and it will provide a great opportunity in the business sector. Also if you want to go to China it will help you better experience the country and its people.”

Meanwhile, Wang is getting to experience South Africa for the first time. “The staff here have been very friendly and helped me a lot,” said Wang, who is living in an apartment at the college. “I am between an English teacher and an Afrikaans teacher.”

Wang admits to finding the differences in cultures interesting. “When it comes to sports, here you play hockey and cricket and water polo. In China we have basketball and ping pong and badminton. I am curious about hockey and at the weekend I went to Hillcrest and bought a hockey stick.”

Food also throws up its share of differences — “in China we drink mainly tea, but here people drink coffee” — and dangers: “There was a party here at the college and the host told me to help myself to snacks. I didn’t know the word and heard it as ‘snakes’. I was astonished.”

Wang has also met the local fauna, and laughs as she describes her daily encounter with a hadeda. “I find the bird very interesting. I regard it as my neighbour.”

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