When Shuang Liu told friends in China she would be teaching in Tennessee, they first asked if she planned on going to the mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is well known in her hometown of Shenyang, the capital of and largest city in northeast China’s Liaoning province, says Liu, Confucius Classroom instructor at Pellissippi State Community College.
According to Liu, who answers to “Lydia” at the college, she has enjoyed not only the mountain vistas but also other differences between East Tennessee and China since her arrival here last August. For starters, she has become accustomed to finishing her meals with Southern desserts rather than with the traditional Chinese dessert of grapes or other fruits.
She laughs when describing another dining custom she has adopted.
“I’m used to chopsticks,” said Liu. “Here, though, there are hamburgers, pizzas and the like. I eat with just my hands a lot now. The food is different, but very good. I especially enjoy the desserts.”
In the classroom, Liu shows her students that the Chinese language is not as difficult to learn as some people believe. She explains that the characters that make up Mandarin Chinese all have a meaning. Once students become comfortable with those meanings, they have overcome the biggest obstacle.
“The grammar part of Mandarin Chinese is very, very easy compared to English,” said Liu. “Pronunciation is not too difficult, either. The characters are the hardest part, but even that is not difficult once students learn the meanings behind them.”
One of the first things her students learn is their Chinese name. Liu encourages discussion about students’ families as a way of practicing the language and honoring the Chinese emphasis on familial relationships. She also reaches out to students from China, whom she welcomes to her classroom.
“Please let students from China know that I love for them to visit my classes,” said Liu. “I enjoy seeing them make friends with my students.”
Liu serves as the full-time instructor for Chinese culture and language classes at Pellissippi State thanks to the college’s 2010 establishment of a Confucius Classroom, which is the result of a prestigious grant made by the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis. The first language class offered in 2010 was full long before registration ended.
Pellissippi State students may now choose from a series of beginning- and intermediate-level courses in Mandarin Chinese. With nearly a billion primary- or first-language speakers, Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, according to geographer Matt Rosenberg. Chinese is the third most widely spoken language in American homes, a 2009 census reports.
Fall 2013 courses available as part of the Confucius Classroom are “Beginning Chinese I” (CHIN 1010), “Beginning Chinese II” (CHIN 1020), “Intermediate Chinese I” (CHIN 2010) and “Peoples and Culture of China” (LAS 2020).
Registration for fall semester begins April 1.
For additional information, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.