By LESLEY SANGA
THE growing importance of the Chinese language globally didn’t go unnoticed by Solomon Islands’ government.
At its request, Taiwan responded by sponsoring the Mandarin teaching program here since 2012 as part of the partnership in education between the two countries.
Committed to providing relevant and high quality teaching, Solomon Islands National University (SINU) has been hosting this program since its beginning, which makes SINU the only institution offering Chinese teaching program for adults in the country.
The program is currently under School of business and management and in September 2016 SINU was privileged to have the new Mandarin teacher from Taiwan, Kuei-Mi LI, joined the university.
Ms LI is a qualified and experienced language teacher and translator, who teaches and translates Chinese, English and French.
Her teaching and translating qualities have been appreciated by her numerous students and proven by many prizes that she has won back in Taiwan.
It’s been one year that Ms LI gives Mandarin classes at SINU, and more Solomon Islanders are interested in learning this language and come to attend classes.
I asked some of Ms LI’s students to share with us their impression of attending her class.
These students come from diverse backgrounds and want to learn Mandarin for different reasons.
When asked if the Mandarin class at SINU meets their expectation, they answered in unanimity: “definitely”, “far beyond my expectation”.
“To me I don’t expect the Mandarin class to be this good or this professional and I think its way beyond my expectation. I love it,” one of the students, Barbara WU said.
For Ms LI, language learning is not only about the practical side of acquiring the communication skills; it also opens gates to different cultures and multiples opportunities.
In her Mandarin courses, along with the basics of Chinese on speaking, listening, reading, and writing, Ms LI integrates various cultural elements and activities, hoping to help Solomon islanders to have a deeper understanding about Chinese and Taiwanese cultures.
So what have the students learned in the class?
“Greetings, everyday sayings/phrases, songs, Mandarin pronunciations, four different tones, Chinese traditions and cultures, festivals, counting numbers, dates and time,” says Agnes Menanopo, a former reporter now also attending the class;
“Asian (Taiwan) culture, food, the people, the lifestyle, Mandarin songs and etc.
“I learnt the common basic communication skills, Mandarin characters and the uniqueness of the Mandarin language itself,” according to Robinson Minevaleke, who is a pharmacist and 2017 ICDF scholarship recipient.
And also “professionalism, teamwork, confidence, kindness”, adds Ezekiel M Bokolonga, engineer and 2017 ICDF scholarship recipient.
These students say what they like most in the Mandarin class is “interaction between students and Teacher”, “make friends and have fun, especially with our instructor who is so loving and kind”.
“What I like the most is the teacher,” says Levix Lo, a nursing student at SINU.
“She’s the best mandarin teacher and also she’s the most helpful teacher who prioritizes her students always.”
The students find the Mandarin class very helpful and useful and encourage the other Solomon islanders to learn it as well.
“I would encourage Solomon Islanders to take advantage of SINU Mandarin program because it is much easier to learn Mandarin back home than overseas,” says Robinson Minevaleke.
“At SINU, you have a Mandarin teacher who can communicate or teach in both English and pidgin and very thorough and patient with students in comparison to taking Mandarin classes overseas where it is usually expensive and a totally different experience,” Mr Minevaleke added.
August Wale, a 2017 Taiwan scholarship recipient chips in:
“As a Solomon Islander and a Mandarin learner, I highly recommend that the native Solomon Islanders to learn Mandarin, because Mandarin has various uses in our country.
“For instance, addressing a Mandarin speaker for the first time, seeking job opportunities from native Mandarin speakers, social interaction with foreign people and as well as evaluating goods and commodities labeled in the Mandarin language from other countries imported in our country.
Another student, Jemma Emmet said:
“Yes I would recommend, as we are venturing into a future of mixed race and ethnics, that communication is the key to keep peace and harmony.”