Learning a second language and being prepared for today’s increasingly multicultural world requires skills to comprehend human interactions and communicate with people near and far. The USF Chinese Conversation Group aims to allow its members to achieve their desired Chinese language proficiency through culturally relevant pedagogical learning and practice. To us, learning a second language is not a “know-how” skill but a key to investigating relationships between different worlds and seeking intercultural understanding through dialogue among people with different cultural backgrounds.
This year, the USF Chinese Conversation Group offered weekly themed oral practice for members interested in maintaining and improving their knowledge of Mandarin Chinese. The group’s meetings were fun, informal opportunities to build community and improve their Mandarin conversation skills. Each week, the group’s leader, Yih Ren (USF EdD candidate), provided an variety of materials including poetry, music, oral history, and politics, for members to further their knowledge about linguistic components and use the language to facilitate their learning about Chinese culture. More importantly, he strove to create a safe space for members to “show up”, make friends, and own their voice in the community.
“我想介绍一下我最好的朋友Milly (I would like to introduce my best friend, Milly),” one of the students said. In February, we spent some time talking about best friends and how we understand what makes a good friend. According to Ren, “Our Zoom classroom was an amphitheater that amplified our voices and stories. Along with sharing their personal stories, members were also able to expand their linguistic repertoires with new Chinese expressions.” The group seamlessly blended language and culture, aiming to move beyond learning vocabulary to embrace cultural differences.
Among the games played by the group throughout the year, 谁是卧底 (Who is Undercover) was the most popular by far. Each member was assigned the same word, but one was actually undercover and given a different word. Members had to use different words or phrases as clues to describe the word they received and, at the same time, try and figure out the identity of the member who was undercover. Each round, they had to eliminate one player based on the descriptions they heard. According to Ren, “What makes the game exciting is that no one knows who received the different word. The best round we did this year was between 可口可乐 (Coca-Cola) and 百事可乐 (Pepsi). Because of their similarities, we were all engaged with trying to guess the words from each of the descriptions. Through language games, we hope students can find joy in active thinking, participation, and collaboration.”
The USF Chinese Conversation Group is a place to practice Chinese (Mandarin) language, facilitate learning, and embrace the intercultural. We welcome new members to join the group next fall. “We hope that more students can join our family and share our mission and care with all language enthusiasts.” If you are interested in joining our community, please reach out to Yih Ren at email@example.com or contact the Center for Asia Pacific Studies (firstname.lastname@example.org).