MHS students learning Chinese meet renowned linguist, Chinese storyteller

[slideshow]By Joann Wong, Marshalltown High School Senior

On April 18, a few lucky students studying Chinese at Marshalltown High School went to Shogun restaurant to watch Chinese-language storyteller Eric Shepherd and performances by students of Valley High School in West Des Moines.

The students, along with the Chinese teacher, Xueying Huang, watched a Chinese lion dance performed by high school students. Also, some students performed a skit form Mulan in Chinese and others told Chinese tongue twisters. Eric Shepard also told many stories that were a play on words and incorporated a lot of humor.

Shepherd is known as being the only American who has captured the Chinese language so well; he is able to converse very fluently as if it was his native language. He is known as a storyteller. During his presentation, Shepherd gave a keynote speech about the importance of learning any foreign language. Chinese is quite different than English because it uses the more creative side of the brain, as opposed to English, which is more focused on the left side. He has said that learning any new language gives students a higher chance of finding a job and maybe even jobs in foreign countries. It is much simpler for companies to find a worker who knows many languages and can do their job, instead of having to hire a translator.

He also noted how in other countries, at a young age many students are learning two languages and English is usually learned right alongside their native tongue. In the United States, on average most students formally learn a foreign language in ninth grade, mostly to satisfy the needs of a university. He believed that learning a new language should be done at a younger age, so it is easier to pick up and can develop alongside English. With the ever-changing world, learning a new language may be helpful in closing the gap of communication.

Another interesting fact Shepherd brought up was how most American students do not know the basic facts about other countries. For instance, how many students can tell you the president of China or even France? Not many students know anything about other countries and some don’t even know the facts and history of their own country—the USA. How can students compete with other countries that they know nothing about?

After the performance, students from MHS had a pleasant talk with Shepherd on how to learn Chinese well.

Mrs. Huang has been the guest teacher from China at MHS this year teaching about Chinese language and culture. She will return to China in June. MHS will receive a new guest teacher at the end of July.