North Central News

Grant helps North Central become training hub for teaching and learning Chinese

Oct 10, 2017

As a diverse, inclusive and globally engaged community, North Central College prepares its students for action and leadership in multiple ways.

“In response to a national trend, North Central has developed a program in Chinese language education and become a leader,” said Jinai Sun, Ph.D., North Central’s assistant professor of Chinese.

North Central has offered Chinese language studies since 2006 and is one of only a few colleges and universities in the Midwest that offers a major in Chinese. “Recognition of the importance of China and Asia spawned a growing demand on the part of students on North Central’s campus,” said Sun.

In recent years, North Central has expanded the learning, speaking and teaching of Chinese to community members. It has hosted multiple Chinese language summer workshops that introduce Chinese language and culture to high school students.  

For the first time in summer 2017, North Central College offered a Teacher Trainer Program called “Integrating Authentic Materials, Effective Teaching Strategies and Technology.” It was the only teacher program offered in Illinois and one of only three in the Midwest.

[photo, below: class of 12 teacher-students with instructors, Dr. Sun in center, front]

“Our goal is to create a center in greater Chicago for teachers to come here to get professional training in teaching Chinese,” said Sun.

The Teacher Program applied a hybrid model of online and on-site instruction consisting of four-day, in-person workshops on campus and six weeks of online seminars. North Central faculty and guest professors provided instruction and coordination, and grants by STARTALK made the program possible. STARTALK’s mission is to increase the number of U.S. citizens learning, speaking and teaching of critical need foreign languages. The grants are funded by the National Security Agency.

“I like STARTALK’s approach of trainer to trainer,” said Sun. “They train us as instructors, too. It’s helping me to connect my research, teaching and community service. To be an effective teacher of Chinese first.”

Over the years, high school students who attended the summer workshops later enrolled as Chinese majors at North Central College. Senior Hannah Burns and junior Katie Evans are two such students. This past summer they served as teaching and administrative assistants in the Teacher Trainer Program. Burns will graduate in 2018 with a Chinese teaching certification in secondary education along with her major in Chinese and a minor in Spanish.

North Central College’s Chinese department is applying for a STARTALK grant for a 2018 summer program that will be collaborative and include both high school Chinese language students and local Chinese language teachers. The merging of student and teacher training will provide invaluable experience and opportunities for both to work together and learn from each other.

In addition to Chinese, North Central College offers language study in Arabic, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.