Intern from Chinese university to help teach Mandarin at Briercrest

Posted: June 4, 2012

Students who take Mandarin at Briercrest this year are in for an authentic experience.

“We’ve been teaching Mandarin since I came in 2009,” Crista Cornelius, instructor of modern language and applied linguistics TESOL said. “This is the first time that we’re going to have a native Mandarin speaker joining us as part of the teaching team.”

Michele Miao, a Chinese graduate student who plans to help teach Mandarin 1 and 2 at Briercrest this year for her internship, is studying at a Chinese university about how to teach Chinese as a foreign language.

“There is a huge demand worldwide for Chinese language teachers,” Cornelius explained. “A lot of people go to China to study. Chinese universities across the country have massive programs for students who are coming to learn Mandarin but the interest is not just reserved for in China. There are people in Spain, in Portugal, in Brazil in the Middle East in the U.S. We want to learn it and we want to learn it here.”

The program Miao is taking in China is geared toward teachers who plan to go abroad to teach Chinese.

“It’s one thing to teach the language in the language environment,” Cornelius stated. “It’s another thing to teach it outside the language environment.”

Miao’s program encourages students to do their internships in an overseas context.

“Her dream was, ‘I would love to be able to teach at a Christian college somewhere – maybe North America or wherever,’” Cornelius said explaining Miao’s desires for her internship.

Cornelius was able to help make that desire come true last spring when she was in China teaching English.

“I sat down with the dean of this program and said, ‘tell me about this internship – tell me what all the requirements are,’” Cornelius recounted. “I got all the documentation and worked through it carefully and said, ‘You know what? I think we could meet these requirements at Briercrest.’ If she came here and did her internship here, how cool would that be?”

Cornelius wasn’t the only person excited about the idea. When she came back to Briercrest and shared with Wes Olmstead, the VP Academic, he was able to find a donor who was willing to provide the funds for Briercrest’s part of the project.

“We have a donor who says, ‘I see this as valuable for creating an awareness among Briercrest students about Christianity as it’s being experienced in other countries,’” Cornelius explained.

Students will get a chance to get to know Miao both inside and outside of the classroom.

“It’s a little bit like having a missionary in residence,” Cornelius said. “She’s probably going to live in one of the dorms where she can interact with the students and have lots of interface time with them.”

The final details of Miao’s travel to Canada are in process.

“She’ll be applying for a visa,” Cornelius explained. “So there are still a few hurdles to cross.”

In the meantime, the TESOL instructor wants to get the word out about the upcoming class.

“If you’ve kind of been thinking about (taking Mandarin) sometime, do it this year.”