‘Zai jian’ to Chinese Dragon Camp

Posted July 18, 2010, at 2:14 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — With a quarter of the world’s population, it’s important for people all over the globe — even in Maine — to learn the language, said Jing Zhang president of Bangor Chinese School.

Area schoolchildren, and others from as far away as Texas, on Friday completed Chinese Dragon Camp, a three-week summer program offered for the last five years by the Bangor Chinese School and the Chinese Learning and Cultural Center.

The summer program class, also known as the “The Future Speaks Chinese,” teaches Chinese language and culture to students in grades four through 12.

“We had 52 kids” this year, said Zhang, who also is director of the learning center. “They came from seven states and 28 schools.”

The graduation and closing ceremony was held Saturday afternoon in Husson University’s Kominsky Auditorium.

Orono resident Kylie Gray, 11, took the summer course and performed during the ceremony Saturday. Dressed in an embroidered Chinese silk blouse, she performed a dance about a little sister and a rap song in Chinese about extended families.

Other students performed songs, tongue twisters and dances, read poems and demonstrated kung fu.

The crowd also was treated to a lion dance and the final performance, which included all 50 or so students, was “a song in Chinese about how we’re all one family,” Gray said Sunday.

Gray said that before she took the class she knew how to say only “ni hao,” or hello, in Chinese. Now she understands some basic language and really enjoyed being introduced to the culture, which “is quite different.”

“It was really fun,” she said.

Her parents, Chris and Lynn Gray, and little brother Caden Gray, 4, were part of the large crowd of parents that filled every seat in Kominsky Auditorium.

“I think it’s great,” Chris Gray said Saturday. “My daughter has been practicing at home. She enjoys it a lot. She took off running with it.”

The school and cultural center has earned grants from the STARTALK program, offered under the U.S. National Security Language Initiative, to help offer scholarships for the Chinese Dragon School.

The first grant, which totaled $110,000, was awarded in 2009, and it was announced in June that the program was awarded another $186,480 grant.

The program is designed to “expand and improve upon the teaching and learning of strategically important world languages, languages like Chinese that are not widely taught in American schools,” the closing ceremony’s program states.

Zhang said the program “teaches students to be global students.”

Kylie Gray has taken the language to heart and ended Sunday’s interview by saying, “zai jian,” which she explained means goodbye.