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Midvale Journal

Students showcase Mandarin learning at Hillcrest High’s first Chinese New Year celebration

Feb 22, 2022 09:06PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High students showcased their talents and skills, as seen here with a fan dance, during the school’s first Chinese New Year celebration. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High junior Emma Walters took the stage alongside her classmates in her Chinese class to sing before the auditorium filled with families and community members.

“We were super nervous, but I think it was just a growing opportunity and a chance for us to get out of our comfort zone,” she said about performing the two songs they had learned in class.

It was part of Hillcrest’s first Chinese New Year celebration as a way students could showcase their talents and skills in Mandarin. The showcase, which included students enrolled in Chinese 1 through Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate students, was narrated in Mandarin by senior Zoe Liu and in English by junior Cameron Jessop. 

The showcase highlighted traditional to pop music, including students’ singing, playing in an instrumental trio and piano solo, dancing and poetry. There also were student videos that explained the Chinese culture from painting to making dumplings.

Through the celebration, Chinese teacher and Chinese club advisor Lian Feng said she hoped her students would learn more about Chinese New Year celebration traditions as well as traditional arts, music and food.

“I want to provide students with, one, an opportunity to apply what they have learned in Chinese classes to the real life through joyful performances and interactive activities, (and) two, an opportunity to experience and appreciate Chinese language and culture,” she said.

Walters said that she enjoyed her classmates’ performances.

“Some other groups were insane, especially the rapping groups,” she said. “I liked the dance numbers; some of those were really impressive. I really liked the dance number with the fans; it was cool and it’s a popular one.”

Walters and other students created videos that opened the showcase and she learned from some of those.

“A lot of those were what we learned in class, but there also was artwork and cooking and we hadn’t really discussed that at all,” she said.

Walters said she began learning Mandarin at Hillcrest.

“I think it’s an incredibly fascinating language,” she said. “It’s incredibly difficult. The characters are incredibly beautiful and it’s just so complex to the point when you understand it, it’s fulfilling because you’re learning three different aspects to it: how to spell something and how to pronounce it with what the tone is, with what that character is, what the meaning is. There are so many different layers to it, so it makes it hard to learn. I would have loved to have started it much sooner. I’m still very much in the basic learning stages.”

During the Chinese culture club, she learns more about customs and traditions. Members also stuffed 250 red bags filled with donated Chinese treats and gave them to the audience.

“I also am just fascinated with Chinese culture and the club is a great way to learn more about that,” she said.

The group learns about the country in a variety of ways from presentations to playing ping pong and mahjong.

“We’ve learned about festivals, traditions and what life is like in China and we’ve tried different kinds of Chinese snacks,” she said. “We occasionally learn and celebrate other cultures as well.”

Walters said that traditionally classes go to a Chinese restaurant and grocery store where they can learn about typical food and have the option to practice Mandarin.

Feng said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, she used to take students on field trips to celebrate Chinese New Year and she has those excursions planned again this year during the Chinese New Year celebration.

Walters said that she finds the lunar new year fascinating.

“It’s a fantastic celebration,” she said. “The stories really interest me and I think the zodiacs are cool aspects of it. They personalize it for individuals. It’s just a great way to celebrate Chinese culture and it’s a lot of fun.”