Month-Long Festival Offers Students and Alumni Immersion in Chinese Language and Culture

The New York Chinese Character Festival celebrated the end of its first-ever, month-long festival with closing ceremonies at NYU’s Kimmel Center on November 3rd.  More than 500 people in the New York area took part in a variety of events that included a scavenger hunt, a hands-on demonstration from a chopstick master, Chinese character photo and t-shirt design contests, and a Chinese spelling bee.

The festival came about through a collaboration between Department of Teaching and Learning faculty members, Lixing Frank Tang and Robin Harvey, and Rex How, Taiwanese publisher and founder of ChineseCUBES, a Chinese education tech startup.

NYU Steinhardt students in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program, as well as alumnae participated by volunteering or bringing their public school students to the festivities.  The artistic talents of graduate student, Minyi Zhu,  and alumna Xueyang Gongwas (MA ’10) were showcased in a  violin Guzheng performance at the opening ceremony.  Alumna Xiaolei Yue (MA ’13), performed a Chinese characters dance at the closing ceremony.

“It was wonderful to see our students embrace the language they are learning as more than an academic pursuit, and to see it’s longstanding relevance to the city around them and be able to share that with others in the community beyond their peers.” said Tang, clinical professor of foreign language education.

Drawing on the popularity of Chinese festival in Asia, the event aimed to give New Yorkers an opportunity to explore Chinese characters in their own communities and daily lives. The festival also offered online contests, which gave participants an opportunity to engage with New York City’s Chinese community through various social media platforms.

“This was a chance for our students to see first hand that Chinese language learning is not just a path to an international career, but can also be a wonderful celebration of a culture where the language itself is a work of art,” said Robin Harvey, master teacher and coordinator of NYU’s Project for Developing Chinese Language Teachers, which provides mentoring and professional development for Chinese language teachers and technical support for school districts.

The Freeman Foundation, a sponsor of the festival, has funded the Project Developing Chinese Language Teachers since 2006.

Photos (top and center):  Lixing Frank Tang was the master of ceremonies at the Chinese Spelling Bee Contest; standing room only at the event’s closing ceremony.  Credit:  Aditya Sawhney, CAS freshman.

Photo (bottom):  A child practices calligraphy.  Credit:  Lindsay Wright