Sharing culture through language and the Arts in China

West lake Opera

West lake Opera

Annually over the Easter holidays, the Confucius Institute at the University of Western Australia offers the opportunity for twenty adolescents 13-17 years old from the state to be selected for a language and cultural tour in China. The ten-day intensive tour has students immerse themselves in daily language classes at the Zhejiang University, explore the scenic, cultural and historical province of Hangzhou and Shanghai and participate in entertaining cultural workshops about Chinese opera, music, martial arts, cultural dress, calligraphy and Chinese knotting.

 

The learning and sharing of the traditional Chinese art forms provided from the knowledgeable and passionate experts at the University assisted each student to develop an understanding of Chinese culture. Through understanding, appreciation, experimentation and reflection it is evident how strong the Chinese people value the traditions from the past in their daily lives. It’s one thing to read and practise the language from a text book, but to experience another culture physically with all your senses under expert guidance is a priceless experience.

Whilst observing the program as a supervisor and reflecting on my personal experiences as an Arts teacher, not a Chinese Language expert, I have felt the unifying qualities of how the stories and traditions communicated and shared through the arts engages and transforms understanding and creates genuine social and world cultural wisdom, not only for myself but ever so clearly evident in the students. This has been noted by the student’s added interest and enthusiasm when they return to their regular Chinese classes.

My favourite part of the trip was how almost everyday a new piece of culture and art was showcased to us. Whether it was visiting museums or participating in Chinese music class it was interesting to experience the differences between Australia and China.”
— A.Pickford

 

One of the most memorable experiences these students had in China was spending an afternoon at Gongyi Middle School. Whilst touring the school students interacted and practised their language skills whilst engaging in a series of arts activities. These hands-on authentic experiences allowed students of both cultures to interact, express, fumble, problem solve and celebrate their successes in making tie dyed bags and singing, dancing and performing famous folk songs. The laughter through these activities was contagious and provided an initial platform for developing friendships which have continued via WeChat.

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I would strongly advise you to say “YES” if you could supervise or support a program such as this as an educator. It will provide you with inspiration and knowledge of another culture and assist you to understand the intricacies of language teaching (which is a great form of professional learning).  After the experience, I’m sure, you will be even more excited to teach and inspire the future world citizens and support them in developing a global understanding of equality and peace. You may even integrate in your programs with the language teachers in your school to support your students with a deeper understanding of arts in our various cultures.

 

If you would like to know more about this tour, please visit

https://www.confuciusinstitute.uwa.edu.au/schools/china-tour-for-wa-high-school-students

 

Have you had a creative cultural Arts Experience like this? I would love to share your story.

X Lisa Hakkinen