BANGOR, Maine — The president of the Bangor Chinese School said Friday that Maine and other states have an “economic need” to foster educational, business and cultural ties with China.
Jing Zhang, who also is director of the Chinese Language and Culture Center of Maine, organized the second annual Maine Chinese Conference at Husson University.
The two-day gathering, which began Friday at the Richard E. Dyke Center for Family Business, aims to help attendees understand more about Chinese language and culture.
In an interview, Zhang said that as China continues to grow and develop as an economic power, it is essential that not only educators but also businesspeople learn more about the country.
“Many local businesses couldn’t connect with China because they couldn’t find the proper [representative] from the area who speaks English and Chinese and is knowledgeable about both cultures.” Zhang said. “That’s our obligation, to get more people ready.”
The Bangor Chinese School and the Chinese Language and Culture Center of Maine put on the conference, which featured lectures on topics such as “Why Chinese?” and “Chinese Language Education.” Zhang said she hopes the conference will help increase the popularity of Chinese language programs in Maine.
Maine now has 18 high schools and seven colleges with Chinese language programs.
“Maine is in the top corner of the United States, isolated from the center of the country,” Zhang said. “I always want Maine to get access to the rest of the country and have the same resources for teaching, exploring and understanding Chinese culture.”
Administrators, teachers, high school and college students, and local businesspeople attended the conference, according to Zhang. Approximately 35 people were in attendance at Friday’s events.
Zhang said she wants to think globally but act locally when trying to bolster Maine’s Chinese language and cultural movement.
As part of a lecture Friday titled “Chinese Language Education: A World Perspective,” Bo Zhu, a representative of the Hanban Institute in China, used Skype, a voice-over-Internet technology, to speak from that country. The Hanban Institute is a public institution committed to providing Chinese language and cultural teaching resources and services worldwide, according to its website.
Zhang said that because of Skype, the event’s organizers were able to get experts, such as Bo Zhu, to lecture who otherwise would have been unable to take part in the conference. Later on Friday, Pat Lo of the Education Department of New York City used Skype to speak on “Input-Model-Output Application in Teaching Chinese Language.”
Other lectures Friday included “Using the Smart Board in Beginner Chinese Language Classes,” by Suzhong Tian, academic officer of the Bangor Chinese School and a University of Maine professor, and “How Public Schools Recruit International Students,” by Jim Chasse, principal of Orono High School.
The Maine Department of Education, Husson University, the University of Maine Department of Modern Languages and Classics, Orono High School and the city of Bangor supported the conference. Lee Academy sponsored the conference.
“This conference is very interesting for me. It’s grown from a few people [last year] to a whole room of people,” said Elizabeth Viselli, a program manager for the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center. “It’s no longer just educators, but linguists, business professionals and the growing number of people who are interested in Chinese culture.” Viselli said she has been taking Chinese lessons with Zhang for three years.
Chunli Crene, a Chinese teacher at Bangor High School, said the conference is a good opportunity for her to interact with her colleagues and meet with people who teach the same subject.
“I get to be part of a discussion on how to develop programs throughout the state,” Crene said.
Saturday’s events began at 8:30 a.m. and included lectures on “How to Get Local Business Support for a Chinese Program,” “Tips for Growing Chinese Programs in Schools and Colleges” and “Business Opportunities in China.”