Freshman Explores Passion for Chinese Culture

Freshman Marisa knows the benefits of speaking a second language. She experienced them firsthand while in China with her family last summer.
Shopping in a marketplace with her brother, Marisa felt her arm grabbed by a woman trying to sell her goods. Her brother immediately blurted out “Wo ai ni” or “I love you.” The confused woman let go.
“The look on the lady’s face was priceless, and she and I were both shocked,” Marisa says. “But my brother grabbed my arm and pulled me away before she knew what had happened.”
The siblings’ knowledge of Chinese had come to the rescue.
Marisa has studied Chinese for two and a half years. She first became interested in the language when her brother started taking the language a few years before her. After just a few classes, Marisa fell in love with both the Chinese language and culture.
“The language is just so different, and there are so many different tones,” Marisa says. “It is almost like singing a song.”
Despite her initial interest in the language because of its usefulness and “songlike tones,” Marisa also enjoys China’s “rich and intense culture.” This past summer she took her second (and “definitely not [her] last”) trip to China where she learned more about the culture while staying with three different host families for seven weeks.
Marisa’s favorite part of the trip was bargaining with the Chinese people in the market. She “loved seeing people’s reactions when they figured out that [she and her brother] speak Chinese.”
In addition to taking a Chinese class at Hockaday, Salatino practices her language skills and vocal skills by singing Chinese Karaoke. Her favorite song is “Yin Xing de Chi Bang,” which in English means “Invisible Wings.”
When she gets older, Marisa would like to “incorporate” her Chinese speaking skills into whatever job she has. She hopes to pursue a career in either international business or law.
According to Marisa, practice makes perfect when learning a new language. “Work hard and stick with it because it only gets easier with time,” she says.
She also recommends spending time in the country where the language is spoken because “putting one’s language skills to use in real life teaches one so much and is really different than a classroom setting. It is also really essential that one speaks with the native speakers, so they really get a good hold of the language.”
Marisa is not the only Hockaday student with a passion for Chinese culture and language. Senior Alex Foote has been taking Chinese for 4 years and plans to major in East Asian studies in college. Alex enjoys taking Chinese because “the graceful characters and musicality of the verbal language.”
“Freshman year my friend and I would make up dances while studying characters to help remember them,” says Alex.
Alex also hopes that Hockaday will start its Chinese language program earlier than high school.
Even with the challenge of learning a new language such as Chinese, Marisa believes that it will help her in the long run.
Chinese “is a useful language because China is becoming such a world power,” she says.
Marisa is not the only one to think that it is important to learn Chinese because of China’s growing influence globally. The rise of China’s economy is mirrored by the number of students taking the language in the U.S.
Between 2000 and 2005 China’s Gross Domestic Product nearly doubled. Shortly after this phenomenal rise, the number of American schools offering Chinese classes grew. According to a study by the New York Times, in 2000 there were only about 300 schools grades four to 12 in the U.S. offering Mandarin Chinese language, but now according to a study conducted in 2010 there are nearly 1,600 schools offering the Asian language.
According to Hockaday registrar Sharon Wright, this national rise is mirrored at Hockaday. There was a 2/3 increase in the number of Chinese students at the school between the 2004 school year and the 2005 school year.
Jenny Li, who has been teaching Chinese at Hockaday for the past 7 years, praises Hockaday’s Chinese program and says that it is “unique” and “special.”
Since Li is the only Chinese teacher at Hockaday, she teaches the language at all levels. She enjoys forming strong relationships with her students and still keeps in touch with many of her students once they go onto college.
Li hopes that “more and more girls will study Chinese at Hockaday” as the years progress.
“Chinese is such a great language,” Marisa says. “The people are amazing, and the culture is absolutely incredible.”