Institute recruits local Chinese speakers

Two Samoans who possess high Chinese language proficiency test levels have been recruited to teach the language at the National University of Samoa’s Confucius Institute.

Hether Vaai and Matamaa Brandon Chou Lee have joined the institute as Chinese language teachers, the N.U.S. President and Vice Chancellor, Professor Alec Ekeroma has confirmed.

He said both candidates met the criteria required for the positions as determined by the interview panel.

"The most important criteria of course is that they must be able to speak Mandarin fluently as assessed by a native Mandarin speaker who is a Council member of the Confucius Institute," Prof. Ekeroma said on Wednesday. "They were invited to the (university’s) orientation process and events yesterday and I am meeting them this afternoon at the Confucius Institute Centre. 

“The Faculty of Arts are also welcoming them as of their Foreign Language team."

The V.C. said they had to cancel the institute’s programs last year as its Chinese lecturers could not travel to Samoa from China.

"However, I think this is a better development where Mandarin is taught by Samoan teachers fluent in Mandarin as they understand the Samoan students better," he added.

Confucius Institute Director, Dr. Tony Liang, told the Samoa Observer that he was impressed with the background of the two appointees.

"They studied in Chinese universities for years on China's scholarship and know a lot about China very much,” he said. “Also they are very good friends of Chinese people.

 “Hether passed H.S.K. (Hunyu Shuiping Kaoshi – a Chinese language proficiency test) 5 with masters degree, Brandon passed H.S.K. 4 with B.A. degree and is waiting to sit H.S.K. 5.”

When asked if he hopes that in the future more Samoans will teach Chinese, Dr Liang said "yes of course”, and emphasised that the institute wants to train more local Chinese language teachers through the N.U.S. programme as well as overseas study in China.

"We hope more and more Samoans will be able to teach Chinese language for those interested, both at universities and communities," he said.

Dr. Liang believes that learning the Chinese language can help a person understand China and its culture as well as enhance friendships and relationships with the Chinese people.

"Also can help find good jobs with Chinese companies and international business.”

The Samoa Observer understands there were seven applicants for the role at the institute with Ms Vaai and Mr Chou Lee getting the nod after the panel interview. 

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Mr Chou Lee said as a Samoan he is elated at taking on the role as it means teaching his own people how to speak Chinese.

"I couldn't be more happier because put into the position in teaching your own local people how to speak Chinese is a real blessing, because it is like giving back to your community at the same time,” he told this newspaper. “You also empower them with the language so they are able to speak with the increasing number of Chinese here in Samoa.

"I am very excited to work with Hether,I met her, I couldn't believe there was another one from China that was here with me that can understand what life in China was like.”

Mr. Chou Lee lived in China for five years and first studied Chinese in Beijing at the Capital Normal University for a year, before moving to the Taiyuan University of Technology in Shanxi where he studied International Chinese Education.

Ms. Vaai, in response to Samoa Observer email queries, said she is excited and grateful for the opportunity to become a part-time teacher at the institute.

When asked if she ever thought of teaching Chinese she said: "It’s something that’s been at the back of my mind for a while.

"I’ve had family ask, but never got the opportunity to organise a class of my own. 

“I also have my aunties and my grandma Lisi Vaai who as teachers have always got my interest in teaching.”

Emphasising that she had to undertake her undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses in Chinese over a seven year period, Ms. Vaai has a H.S.K. Level 5 certificate in Chinese and her studies included a year at Nanjing Normal University, followed by four years at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics for her undergraduate degree in International Economy and Trade and two years for a masters degree in marketing from the same university. 

A Samoa College alumni, Ms. Vaai said she had her first exposure to Chinese language learning at the N.U.S.

"I first started learning Chinese at the National University of Samoa in a community course when I was in Samoa College.

"By learning Chinese, it can not only help create a better understanding of the Chinese culture and habits, but could also open up career opportunities for students given the increasing role of the Chinese language in international commerce.”

When asked about her teaching strategy for this year she said: "As formal teaching of Chinese is a new challenge for me, I will try and learn as much as possible teaching techniques of Confucius Institute and N.U.S. colleagues.

"Am hoping to use innovative creative online methods – online conferencing, social media – to help make Chinese interesting to learn by the students.”

The link between learning Chinese and international commerce was also highlighted by Mr Chou Lee, who said being unable to communicate could lead to prospective business entrepreneurs missing out. 

Mr Chou Lee then thanked his parents for their support for the duration of his studies in China, saying he wouldn’t have come this far without their assistance.

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