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Extension Education Highlight: Mandarin language learning program

An empty classroom.

Sariah Israelsen: Welcome back to USU Extension Educational Highlight. I'm Sariah Israelsen and joining me today is Peiru Chen, Extension Mandarin language learning coordinator. I am so glad you are here.

Peiru Chen: Nice to meet you.

Sariah Israelsen: So you just got back from Taiwan. You took about eight high school students to teach them Mandarin in Taiwan. I would love if you just talk to me about that. Why did you guys go out there? What was the program? And what was that like?

Peiru Chen: So we got a funding from a generous donor last year. And he's very dedicated to build the connection between National Taiwan Junction University and USU.

The donor provided scholarships for the students, so they could have a two-week language learning experience in Taiwan. And it was a fantastic trade. Students learned a lot about language and culture about Taiwan.

Sariah Israelsen: So going towards the future, I know that this program is going to receive a $372,000 StarTalk grant to fund a two-week Mandarin Chinese language and cultural summer camp for high school students next summer. Is that correct?

Peiru Chen: Yes, it is correct. It's very exciting, because we just started this language program last year. So in about a year we have had big progress in being able to get federal funding to build a two-week summer program in 2024.

This summer camp is a little bit different from the high school trip I took students to in Taiwan because it's the first for nationwide to students who want to learn Chinese or who have a high interest in Chinese are all welcome.

And is a U.S. and federal government-funded program. So it will be very interesting for students and I believe this program will bring different experiences when students come to Logan to learn Chinese.

Sariah Israelsen: So tell me how these students are taught — what is the process for them to learn Mandarin?

Peiru Chen: So this grant I got is pretty advanced, because even though now the AI Chat-GPT is very popular, and students often use Chat-GPT to write a homework. And teachers try to prohibit students from doing so. But it is a trend. It's impossible for you to prohibit students from using it.

So my goal is to, instead of telling students, "No, I don't want you to use Chat-GPT," I want to teach students to use Chat-GPT, or this AI language tool, correctly, to help them to learn language in the correct and faster way.

So our goal and our topic for our next year's summer program will be how to use AI, like Google Translate or Chat-GPT or any other upcoming language AI tools, to foster your language learning and make your Chinese learning experience better.

And also give students an idea, like, if you want to use these AI tools, that's fine. But you need to know how to make them be a useful tool to help you, but not just get it done and cheat on your teachers.

Sariah Israelsen: That I love. I love how you're taking the tools that are available and just teaching them the correct way to use them.

So is this fund going to be a one-time grant or is it going to be ongoing?

Peiru Chen: It's a one-time grant. We need to apply every year. So I believe there will be a coordinator or specialist from the NSA to monitor and see how we are doing with this program.

So now we have a team. We have instructors and expertise like professors from Colorado and Texas. It's more diverse in the teacher's team. So we hope to bring teachers together and also bring students all together from the national wide and build up this program.

It's not only for local students, but have a big goal and a bigger picture for all a student who wants to learn Mandarin Chinese.

Sariah Israelsen: That was Peiru Chen, Extension Mandarin language learning coordinator. Thanks so much for being here.

Peiru Chen: Thank you.

Sariah Israelsen: And thank you for listening, and I hope that you join me again next week.