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Chinese department hosts new year celebration to connect Duke, Durham

Duke's Chinese department has worked to bring together Chinese language-learning communities at Duke and in Durham.

The Chinese department hosted a Chinese New Year celebration Saturday that sought to strengthen the bonds between Chinese language-learning communities in Durham and at Duke in addition to showcasing students' Chinese language skills. Duke students and students from Holt Elementary Language Academy, a magnet elementary school in Durham specializing in global studies and language immersion, met in Old Chemistry to paint lanterns, drink tea, listen to traditional Chinese music and eat authentic Chinese food.

“Our students are really encouraged by the kids, with how enthusiastic they are learning the language,” said Yan Liu, a lecturer in the department of Asian and Middle Eastern studies. 

Liu said that beyond just providing a space to practice and showcase Chinese language skills, the event served as the annual meeting between different language-learning communities. She noted that “people in the [selective living group LangDorm] as well as people in Chinese classes” have organized this event for the past two years.

The students staged lip sync performances and traditional plays in Chinese with the goal of improving their language skills and interacting more fully with Chinese culture.

“They are singing and dancing with the language," said Carolyn Lee, director of the Chinese program and professor of the practice in AMES. "It’s just really a nice connection we can have with the community,” 

Ya Chun Lee-Leung, a Mandarin Chinese teacher at Holt, emphasized the energy and motivation the event brought into her classrooms, adding that the elementary school students were extremely excited to show what they learned at the event.

“They can get some more confidence for how they learn at school," she said. "I think we learn together with each other.” 

Lee said that Duke students feel inspired when they see that elementary school students are learning the same language as they are.

“That kind of inspiration you can get from little kids encourages you to cherish the opportunity you have,” she said.


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