开学 Starting Classes

This week was the start of classes which means goodbye to free time as I am already floundering in tons of homework and readings. The CET Beijing program is structured so that I have 2 hours of Chinese classes in the morning with English content courses in the afternoon. I really enjoy this schedule as it allows me to concentrate on Chinese (being in class more than double the amount of time than when I am in America) while the English coursed help me filter and comprehend my daily expericences.

My Chinese course primarily deals with learning and discussing social issues and historical events in Chinese. Our first lesson was pretty interesting as we discussed changes in family  makeup over time (divorce rate in Chinese anyone?). We only have 5 students in the course so the class is very personal and has a relatively quick pace which is great to help improve my Chinese.

The English courses I have elected to take this semester are 21st Century Beijing, a course looking at the Economic, Political, and Social forces that have created modern Beijing and in turn heavily influenced modern China, Chinese Politics, which is centered on what our professor has repeatedly named, “the furniture in the room of Chinese politics”, and Gender and Family in China covering issues of Gender and Sexuality  which interestingly enough is taught by a Bowdoin professor. What I hope these content courses can do is connect the things I see everyday or the experiences I have and help me make sense of what modern China really is.

For example, I go places all the time and completely do not understand what people are saying to me because China has a ton of different dialects that are utterly incomprehensible to a student who is only studying Mandarin. Therefore a lot of effort and time is placed on educational policy right now that mandates schools instruct in Mandarin. While that might be necessary to create a country unified under one language, that sort of top-down pressure threatens to destroy much culture connected to the spoken languages of distinct dialects. I remember asking my teacher in Hangzhou if she would choose to teach her children Wenzhou dialect which is primarily useful only in that one city. She told me that she absolutely would as that spoken language connects the Wenzhou people to their ancestors and is an invaluable part of their culture.

I think that my classes will help me discover and reflect on problems like these which I am constantly bumping into on a daily basis. I also hope to more fully understand  governmental policies and what exactly constitues modern Chinese society and the government. It will be interesting to see how everyday experiences and my perception of Chinese people’s lives relate to the theoretical ideas I learn in class.


2 Responses to “开学 Starting Classes”

  1. 1 Christine Wintersteen
    September 8, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Chris—I love all the reflection on society, culture, identity, language that you talk about in this post. This is exactly the types of questions you should be diving into during your study abroad time. How cool! Christine

  2. 2 Amber Dostie
    September 9, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    This is so great. I am jealous of what you are learning, and how oyu are learning it. Enjoy every moment!!!! Thinking of you, and wishing you well.

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