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Adapting to Life in China

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

When Associate Professor of Chinese Hang Du wondered what life was like for Middlebury students studying abroad in China, she decided to pack up and spend a semester with them herself.

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Hang Du

With support from a faculty research grant, Du went to the C.V. Starr-Middlebury School in Hangzhou, China, while on her sabbatical in 2008.  Twenty-nine students on the Middlebury program gave her permission to study their every move, and so she went to classes with them, observed them in academic and non-academic settings, and interviewed them in Chinese before, during, and after the semester.

For three months she ate meals with the students, analyzed their questionnaire responses, spoke to their teachers, administered language proficiency tests, and even read their journals (with permission, of course)—all in an effort to understand how American students handle their immersion in her native country.

Hang Du transcribed all of her conversations, observations, and analysis into more than 2,400 pages of hand-written notes, and recently published an article on her quantitative findings in the Modern Language Journal, with a second article due out later this year.

On March 20 she presented her qualitative findings in a Carol Rifelj Faculty Lecture at Middlebury entitled “Study Abroad in China: Language, Identity, and Self-presentation,” to a gathering of about 60 students, faculty members, and community members. And as she shared stories about her observations in Hangzhou, about a dozen students smiled and nodded their heads indicating that a sizeable share of the audience had studied in China on the Middlebury program and had “lived” similar experiences.

For example, she told a story about a Middlebury student who took a 10-hour train trip to Beijing. As soon as the other passengers noticed her high level of proficiency in the Mandarin language, she was besieged by questions because her language skills exceeded people’s expectations. Added Du, “The Chinese people can be very blunt.”

She told about a student with Korean parents, who identified with the international students at Middlebury, but felt she was part of the majority in China. Or about the student-musician who was invited by strangers to perform at their wedding, and did so willingly. Or about the student who found he was “less eager” to defend American policies after living and studying in China.

Du, a veteran language teacher who first came to Middlebury in 2001 as a member of the summer Chinese School faculty, was particularly interested in the students’ awareness of dialects and accents. She played an audio clip for the audience in which one of the students in the program impersonated a Hangzhou resident’s less-than-perfect pronunciation of Mandarin.

Her qualitative findings fell into three categories: language proficiency, identity and self-presentation, and interaction with native speakers. “Soon after I analyzed the data,” she said, “these three themes jumped up and called out my name.”

Du was inspired to conduct her study when, in 2006, she found extensive research on study abroad in other countries such as Russia and France, but “there was nothing about American students studying abroad in China.” Her interest was compounded by the fact that more than 50 study-abroad programs had been established in China since the 1980s, and the realization that China ranks fifth on the list of the most-popular destinations for U.S. students studying abroad.

And yet, Chinese-language teachers in the U.S. did not have access to valid research findings about American students in China, she said. “Year after year we send students over there and then they come back, but we didn’t really know what [their experiences were,] so that’s why I wanted to study it.”

From her research, Du has concluded that Middlebury students felt “respected and valued” in China because of their language proficiency, and their positive images of themselves has motivated them to keep learning and practicing the language. Students told her that they could “fend for themselves” in the marketplace or with taxi drivers because of their language skills. They felt validated because they could make their opinions or feelings known in conversation with others in Chinese.

She also noticed a shift in students’ perspectives about non-speakers of Chinese, as demonstrated by the student who thought Westerners in Tiananmen Square who could not converse in Chinese were “shameless,” and by the student who observed that Europeans sitting at an adjacent table in a restaurant were actually “disappointed” to hear him speaking Mandarin.

Some students in study-abroad programs are ascribed “half-wit status” by native speakers because of their lack of language skills, Du explained, but for Middlebury students in China the opposite was true. “Our students were appreciated and honored by the Chinese people for their language skills.”

Love languages? Linguistics? Teaching? A J-Term internship for you…

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Still not sure about your J-Term plans?

Interested in languages, linguistics or teaching? Speak Spanish, Chinese, Amharic, Hindi or Punjabi? Apply to be an English Language Learner (ELL) Program Assistant for J-Term! The Addison Central Supervisory Union is looking for interns to assist ELL teachers in development materials and resources in multiple languages for programs and parents. Interns would work about six hours a week during J-Term, primarily on the administrative end of the programs. Interns would create and translate newsletter templates, questionnaires and other forms.

Ready to get started? Head to MOJO and apply today!

Shun Bao Digital Archive (trial access extended through April 16)

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Middlebury College is extending a trial to The Shen Bao Digital Archive (1872-1949), formerly transliterated as Shun Pao or Shen-pao (申報), the Shanghai News. Learn more about Shen Bao, published from April 30, 1872 to May 27, 1949 in Shanghai, China.


Search the archive here or on the New & Trial page (go/trials).

Please send feedback to Please send comments to Rebekah Irwin (rirwin@middlebury.edu) or your library liaison.

Chinese language databases (trial through May 15)

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Along with over ten liberal arts colleges, Middlebury has arranged to trial several Chinese language research databases.

Airiti Library for Chinese journals, dissertation, etc. (trial access through May 31)

Airitibooks Chinese eBooks (trial access through May 31)

CNKI Chinese Databases (trial access through May 31) Through CNKI (Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure) we have access to all China Academic Journals (CAJ) (1915 onward), dissertations (1984 onward), theses, proceedings, and newspapers.

Middlebury users can access these databases on the New & Trial page (go/trials).

Please send feedback to Please send comments to Rebekah Irwin (rirwin@middlebury.edu) or your library liaison.

Current Digest of the Chinese Press

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Starting this month, the Middlebury College Libraries are providing access to The Current Digest of the Chinese Press, a collection of translated articles from key Chinese newspapers related to politics, international relations, security, economics, business, public health, environment, education, culture and more.

Map available at http://english.gov.cn/

Link directly to The Current Digest of the Chinese Press or explore this and other new library collections on our New & Trial Resources page.

Around the World in 10 Events

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Every summer, there’s a short but sweet burst of Language School-related events that fills the campus calendar with a weekly dose of all things cultural, from music to lectures to art—all in language, of course. Don’t miss your chance to travel abroad without leaving town!

Here are the annual “Top Ten” suggestions from Michael Geisler, vice president for the Language Schools, Schools Abroad, and graduate programs. Be sure to check the campus calendar as well.

 

 

 

 

 

School of Hebrew
Tuesday, June 28, 8 p.m.
Tzofim Friendship Caravan
McCullough Social Space

Tzofim Friendship Caravans travel throughout North America each summer as emissaries, sharing their lives in Israel through song, dance and stories representing the Israeli culture and spirit. Each Caravan consists of five male and five female Tzofim (Israel Scouts) who are entering their senior year of high school. Friendship Caravans have appeared on over twelve different TV shows and several news spots, reaching over 90,000 viewers worldwide.

Spanish School
Friday, July 1, 9 p.m.
Novalima  Concert
McCullough Social Space

“Peruvian music isn’t all Andean pan pipes. Novalima are a cosmopolitan cutting-edge troupe whose blurring of their country’s bitter racial divide, incorporating the music of ‘Afro-Peru,’ has created a stir.  Sinuous, compulsive rhythms are at their heart but Novalima stretches out into reggae and Afrobeat with a variety of vocalists, including a Cuban hip-hop duo.” The Observer, 01/18/09

Chinese School
Friday, July 8, 7:30 p.m.
Music from China Youth Orchestra
McCullough Social Space

Conducted by Mr. Guowei Wang, this 16-member youth ensemble will perform both traditional Chinese music and original compositions. The Music from China Youth Orchestra has performed all over the United States and has been featured at Carnegie Hall.

French School
Sunday, July 10th, 7 p.m.
Roundtable Discussion : Spring Revolution in the Arab World
Robert A. Jones ’59 House Conference Room

A roundtable discussion in French of recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa will be held on the Vermont campus, with the participation via videoconference of the French School at Mills and the Middlebury Arabic School. Guest speakers in Vermont will include Sami Aoun, Full Professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal and regular Middle East analyst for Radio-Canada and other media organizations; and Fady Fadel, Vice President for Academic Affairs and International Relations and Professor of Law and Political Science, Antonine University, Lebanon, who has devoted significant research to interreligious dialogue, the peaceful settlement of international disputes, and the legal and political analysis of UN Security Council peacekeeping resolutions.

French School
Monday, July 18, 7:30 p.m.
K’Koustik Quartet
McCullough Social Space

K’Koustik Quartet will present a sparkling blend of traditional rhythms from Guadeloupe. This performance is a tribute to the ka―a goat-skin tanbou which in its boula form (bass) provides the basic rhythms of Guadeloupean folk music and in its maké form (treble) supplies the fiery improvisational flourishes that distinguish the music of the West Indies.

German School
Thursday, July 21, 5 p.m.
Zernik Lecture by Professor Frank Trommler: “Wie das Ausland Deutschland sehen soll” (“How foreign countries should view Germany”)
McCardell Bicentennial Hall 220

Frank Trommler has been a member of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania since 1970. A Guggenheim Fellow (1984–85), Trommler has also been President of the AATG’s Philadelphia chapter (1986–90), President of the German Studies Association (1991–92), and Director of the Humanities Program at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington, DC (1995–2003). In 1994 he was awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz by the President of the Federal Republic for his work in the field of American-German relations. The Zernik Lecture is an annual lecture sponsored by the Karl and Anna Zernik Memorial Fund.

Portuguese School
Friday, July 29, 9 p.m.
Richard Miller and Vanderlei Pereira
McCullough Social Space

Richard Miller and his acoustic guitar bring us music in several rhythmic styles, including Xote and Bossa Nova. Accompanied by Vanderlei Pereira on percussion and Gigi McLaughlin on the accordion, Miller’s “Rhythms of Brazil” brings together a combination of styles whose origins span from southeastern to northern Brazil.

School of Russian
Saturday, July 30, 8 p.m.
Zolotoi Plyos
Town Hall Theater

Zolotoi Plyos perform a wide range of Russian folk songs from various regions of Russia. Aleksandr, Elena, and Sergei preface each song with a description of its genre and content. They play over 30 musical instruments and introduce most of them in the course of the concert—truly a fun event for any lover of good music, regardless of age!

Italian School
Wednesday, August 3, 9 p.m.
Lecture and photo presentation by award-winning photojournalist Letizia Battaglia
Warner Hemicycle

Born in Palermo, Sicily, Letizia Battaglia took up photojournalism in 1971 and went on to discover in herself a burning passion for photography. Over the years she has documented the ferocious internal war of the Mafia and its assault on civil society, producing many of the iconic images that have come to represent Sicily and the Mafia throughout the world. She is also deeply involved in women’s rights, environmental issues and, most recently, prisoners’ rights.

German School
Friday, August 5, 8 p.m. at Town Hall Theater
Saturday, August 6, 8 p.m. at Vergennes Opera House
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera
Directed and conducted by Christoph Hagel

The German for Singers program of the Middlebury German School will perform Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera under the direction of Christoph Hagel, recipient of the 2010 ECHO-Klassik-Sonderpreis, a German music award. Mozart wrote this compelling story of love, jealousy, betrayal, and revenge at the age of 18. In 1775 the opera debuted in Munich, where it was performed in Italian; five years later, Mozart converted it into a German Singspiel.