by Nane Vardanyan
Nǐ hǎo (你好) is the new way our SMART students of Chinese (Mandarin) language program say hi to each other. Yes, there are no unachievable destinations for us, and Chinese is yet another language in our skillset.
Լearning Chinese is a novelty in Debet. Moreover, to learn Chinese Debet is one of the few places in Armenia. “The aim of including Chinese as a new language in our programs is to show the rural children of Armenia how big the world is, to allow them to have a new, much broader perspective on a new culture,” explained Shahane Halajyan, the SMART Programs Manager at COAF.
Maggie Ghulinyan, our Chinese language Instructor or as students say Meiqi Lăoshī (老师), is a graduate of Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. As luck would have it, Maggie’s family roots go back to Dsegh, Lori. For her, becoming an instructor at the SMART Center meant going back to the roots, to her ancestral home, and working with the children of Lori.
Maggie remembers that in the beginning most participants were anxious about the language and could hardly believe they would succeed. Guess what, after several months of productive learning, students are full of enthusiasm and thirsty to further develop their knowledge.
What do the students mostly like about Chinese? Of course, playing games and singing out loud…sometimes very loud. Each topic they study in Chinese has a special song. Sometimes students go home and try to find the songs on YouTube. If so, their whole family will have to listen to the same song on and on for the rest of the day. The gamified and musical teaching method, which also uses innovative software is the key to making the learning process even more fun.
It all comes with challenges — the 4 tones of Chinese that are so hard to pronounce for the beginners. However, according to the Instructor, SMART students are quick-learners and their enthusiasm and hard work play a crucial role in their success. “To learn Chinese, one has to love it,” admitted Maggie.
China has the world’s largest manufacturing economy, and more than 1.2 billion people all around the globe speak Chinese. Turns out, together with English and Russian, our students are on their way to understanding the whole world.