Chinese New Year comes alive for students
Feb 07, 2013 (The Porterville Recorder - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
When the Chinese New Year arrives Sunday, students in Yan Conner's Mandarin Chinese class at Summit Charter Collegiate Academy will have a new perspective on it -- and know exactly what it is and why it is celebrated.
The 88 students, separated into three classes, have not only been learning the language in the class, they've also been learning the culture.
With red paper lanterns strung across the classroom, the students spent Wednesday learning new words and working on Chinese paper cards.
"I love this class. It's kind of hard but really cool to speak Chinese," Mallory Dennis said. "As far as Chinese New Year, I've learned a lot that I didn't know."
Amara Alghonaym agreed, saying he likes the story of the dragon and how it is frightened away with firecrackers.
"I also like how it signifies the start of spring," Alghonaym said.
The Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later -- a day celebrated that night with a Lantern Festival of lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade.
"We've made the red lanterns and hung them up to symbolize the new year," Solomon Dennis said. "I think it is cool how they make a big dinner with dumplings. If you find something -- coins, money -- in your dumpling, it's a good thing. It means you'll be rich in time."
But learning about the holiday and traditions is only one segment of the class.
"We learn vocabulary and focus on how to speak and how to read. The writing is limited because it's a bit hard to learn," said Conner. "The last couple of weeks, they've been learning about the traditions of the Chinese New Year."
Students Jose Sanchez, Carolina Miramontes and Samuel Denning all said they have enjoyed the lessons.
"I wanted to learn a different language other than Spanish, and I wanted to learn about different cultures," Sanchez said. "I've had a chance to practice a few words when I'm out at Chinese restaurants."
Miramontes said she knows an approximate 20 words and several sentences in Mandarin.
"We have work sheets and work with partners practicing our words and sentences," she said.
Samuel Denning said his family has been visited by Chinese people in the past, and he looks forward to being able to communicate in Chinese. And if he travels, he knows enough to get by, including how to greet people, say his name and where he is from, he said.
"I thought it would be cool to learn a language and the culture," Denning said.
Conner said the students are what keeps the class interesting.
"This is my first year teaching Mandarin. I'm so lucky to work here. Every day I come here very happy," said Conner, adding she used . "They are the reason I'm here. I have the greatest students."
Mandarin is replacing the Korean language taught at the school for the past five years, said school dean counselor Jolene Robles.
"Because we are an International Baccalaureate and a charter school, we are always trying to come up with new ideas and other ways to be different," said Robles. "This language goes with our IB model."
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.
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