Ning Yang - MA in Teaching Chinese / PhD Candidate
How did you discover the MA in Teaching Chinese to speakers of other languages at UCC, and what attracted you to the programme?
Back in Beijing, representatives of UCC went to Zhengzhou University (ZZU) where I did my bachelors to showcase UCC. I was fascinated by the colorful pictures showing the international studying environment, spacious and lovely student dorms as well as the archaic building of the west wing. It was the first time I had thought to go out of my country to see a bigger and different world.
Did you have any hesitations about studying abroad, or in Cork?
Honestly speaking, my decision was made quickly, although my family were concerned about my safety, the language challenges and culture shock. We did a lot of research online about Ireland. Thankfully, Ireland is a hospitable country and Irish people are very kind, especially the Cork people. I did my bachelor’s in foreign linguistics and literature, so I wasn’t worried too much about English. Instead, I regarded this experience as a great opportunity to improve my second language.
Did you feel connected to the University during your experience? What was it like communicating with and getting to know, your lecturers and fellow classmates?
I found that I was closely connected to UCC despite the fact that we did have a lot of free time to study on our own. My lecturer professor Sparvoli Carlotta stayed in Fudan university, China for around 4 years and she has a very good understanding about Chinese culture and our way of thinking. She helped each of us find a local Irish student who are studying Chinese in UCC as language partner. My language exchange period with my language partner Patrick lasted for about a year until he went to Shanghai university as exchange student. We became very good friends and both of us made so much progress in our language learning.
I also can never forget about the good times I had with my classmates of going to Mardyke together where I learned how to swim, discussing how to teach Chinese to local Irish primary students as part of our program, and the sad time when we said goodbye to each other after graduation.
What was your favourite aspect of this programme?
My favorite part of this programme lies in the observation activity we did. We were allowed to go to Chinese teaching classrooms to observe how other experienced teachers teach, make reflections and learn from them. I find it helped a lot in my own teaching activities.
What would you say to someone who was considering enrolling in this programme?
This programme is very interesting and will benefit those who aspire to become a teacher. Pedagogies suitable for various languages are included and some specific features of Chinese were covered as well. I think it gives Chinese students a great chance to look at our language from a different perspective, but you don’t have to worry about it at all if you are not Chinese.
Since studying this Masters, has your perspective/understanding of teaching Chinese to speakers of other languages changed?
What I learned from studying at UCC is very different from the way I saw how Chinese is taught in my home country. In UCC, I think keeping student-centered is of vital importance. I made reflections on my own teaching experience in the past and realized that I should put students instead of myself, the teacher, as the primary role.
What do you like most about being a teacher?
I love being a teacher because I love the interactions that happen between teacher and students. It is also a creative and learning activity in which I organize the teaching materials, create teaching activities, and reflect on the teaching results. I enjoy this whole activity because it keeps me thinking and making progress.
You have decided to stay in UCC to complete your PhD. Tell us more.
After my graduation, my professor suggested to me to pursue further academic study. I realized myself that I really enjoy doing research, so I started to apply for the PhD. This step is hard because in my hometown, women are expected to marry in their 20s and a lot of people still hold prejudice against woman doing a PhD. I am so lucky because I get so much support from my previous supervisor Carlotta and current supervisor Professor Martin Howard. I also have great understanding and support from my family.
Do you feel your MA in Teaching Chinese at UCC has benefited you in your career? Do you think it sets you apart in your field?
I learned a lot of theories in my MA, and I taught Chinese in a language school in Co. Kildare before I got my PhD offer. I applied what I learned to my teaching and the results is pretty satisfying. Based on the feedback from students and parents, they enjoyed my teaching so much and learned a lot!
Finally, what has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
One year after I finished my teaching with the Irish primary students, I was invited to present certificates to those who did great in their Chinese language learning. I was very happy to see the children grown up so fast and I am extremely proud for the progress they made in learning Chinese.