Mandarin instructor applies ALLEX training and cultural knowledge to teaching

Mandarin instructor Chinling Yang was trained through the ALLEX program. Photo courtesy of Theresa San Luis.

Chinling Yang, a Mandarin instructor, can relate to students and offer first-hand knowledge of her culture as she trained through the Alliance for Language Learning and Educational Exchange (ALLEX) program.

A native of Taiwan, Yang is SIUE’s second ALLEX instructor. She serves the position as a graduate assistant, and also studies Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), a master’s degree program within the English Department.

Yang said she loves teaching Mandarin and helping students learn about China, Taiwan or Asia in general.

“It gives me a chance and it also gives them a chance to know the cultural differences,” Yang said.

The ALLEX program recruits and trains Japanese and Chinese students to become professional language teachers, and according to its website, “was founded with the primary mission of advancing global understanding and intercultural exchange through education.” It advances this mission with programs that “encourage the establishment of high quality East Asian language programs at educational institutions in the United States and Canada.”

Yang said she learned a lot during the program’s intensive two-month training at Portland State University prior to teaching at SIUE.

“They have very nice and distinguished Chinese teachers,” Yang said. “They use performance culture-based theory in Mandarin teaching. You put your teaching materials into a context so your students can perform in a more socially linguistic sense and understand or practice what they say in real life.”

Tom Lavallee, foreign languages department chair, said the ALLEX instructor position, which is funded by the College of Arts and Sciences, is very valuable.

“I’ve noticed during the time that we’ve had the ALLEX instructors that automatically from the point of view of the students, they’re able to have a native-speaking, well-trained Chinese language teacher,” Lavallee said.

According to Lavallee, Yang brings in a lot of cultural knowledge such as on food, clothing, fashion and movies.

“She has a knack with communicating with the students in ways that they’re comfortable with,” Lavallee said. “She can share information about pop culture or music.”

Senior economics major Carolyn Neunuebel said her mother is Taiwanese and that Yang as her instructor helps her to communicate better with her family.

“I like that she’s from Taiwan,” Neunuebel said.  “I feel like we connect better with that. She knows my mother is Taiwanese and will tell stories about [Taiwan].”

Lavallee added that Yang in being closer to the age of the students can have a good connection with them.

Neunuebel said she appreciates Yang’s friendly approach to teaching and feels she can relate to her.

“She makes us all feel like friends even though she’s our teacher and of course we respect her,” Neunuebel said.

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