Mia Bitman ’22 and Andrew Abbott ’24 were among the 32 American students whose written work was included in the Chinese Language Teachers Association publication “Selection of American K-12 Outstanding Chinese Works” for the 2020-21 school year.
The publication comprises work from students studying Mandarin as a second language at the novice, intermediate and advanced levels and includes feedback from the judges who selected each piece. “We received a large volume of submissions this year,” the K-12 selection committee said in an email announcing the publication, “and the works chosen were truly exemplary.”
As Ravenscroft Mandarin teacher Yi-Wen Liu explained, the purpose of the annual digital magazine is to promote Chinese language and culture studies in North America. “It provides a platform for learners to practice their craft as writers and to share their ideas, inspiration and successes in their Chinese learning. It is also an essential, authentic and rich writing assignment resource for primary and secondary teachers,” she said.
At the time when they completed the projects included in the magazine, Mia was enrolled in Honors Mandarin IV, and Andrew was in Honors Mandarin II.
Mia’s project involved introducing a famous Chinese American — in her case, actor Lucy Liu — in both a presentation and an essay.
“Writing an essay in Mandarin had layers, as first I had to sound smart enough in English, then find a way to make it to the same level in Mandarin,” she said. “Eloquence in English is hard enough on its own, and it’s frustrating to not be able to translate my thoughts into a different language as easily as I’d like. But I enjoyed learning so many new phrases that I didn’t know before.”
Andrew’s submission was part of his class’s Chinese Pop Song project.
“I chose 光年之外 (Light Years Away) by G.E.M. I wrote about why I liked the song, a little bit about the artist, and a part of the lyrics that I really enjoyed,” he explained. “I enjoyed listening to music in a completely different language. The crazy part was that I think this song is better than most songs I listen to in English! That really shows how music is a universal language, and I really had fun listening to and exploring this new song.”
Ms. Liu said that the amount of effort both students put into their projects was reflected in the quality of the outcome.
“I think both of our students had put a lot of effort in the writing tasks, and they do have neat handwriting in Chinese. Mia used many long, connected sentences to form this well-structured essay, and Andrew was able to create with the language even though he only had limited knowledge about how to write an essay in Mandarin,” she said. “They deserved to be chosen!”
Andrew said the recognition “feels amazing. I had not expected to be a part of a select number of outstanding Chinese works. This experience, most importantly, lets me know that I am making great progress in my journey of learning the Chinese language. It gives me a boost of confidence in my knowledge of Mandarin, and makes me want to try even harder to do the best I can.”
Mia echoed that sentiment, noting that her progress in learning Mandarin has been a personal success as well.
“My mom is Chinese, so communicating with her in our language is really fulfilling. In general, language learning is enjoyable because it incites a unique thought process that inevitably helps me in other walks of life,” she said. “I feel more secure in my language learning journey [as a result of this recognition], as it shows I’m heading in the right direction despite having so much to improve on.”