Wayne State University

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WSU's Confucius Institute holds annual conference at Wayne State for Chinese language, culture enthusiasts

November 21, 2013

Session participants at CLAM Conference

Educators and advocates of Chinese language and culture came to Wayne State’s main campus this month to exchange ideas about instructional and cultural topics ranging from pedagogical best practices to Michigan’s socio-political ties with China.

The Chinese Language Association of Michigan (CLAM) held its sixth annual conference in McGregor Memorial Conference Center on Nov. 16, offering a full day of programming to more than 130 participants. The day featured 25 breakout sessions led by K-12 and university Chinese instructors, school administrators, students, and business executives from across Southeast Michigan. A mid-day plenary session featured an address by John De Mado, a national language acquisition and curriculum development expert. De Mado discussed the importance of “interlanguage,” the highly inventive way that language learners speak when they are taking risks and making intuitive choices in the process of acquiring a new tongue.

Founded by the Confucius Institute at Wayne State (WSU-CI), CLAM fosters professional development throughout the state through an online information- and idea-sharing website (http://clam.wayne.edu) and its annual conference, which allows participants to share successes, challenges, concerns and advice from their respective areas of Sinology. The conference also allows the WSU-CI to highlight its considerable community-oriented resources, which include K-12 outreach, teaching materials, workshops, cultural performances, and study abroad opportunities.

This year’s conference placed a special focus on innovative techniques for Chinese language instruction, noted WSU-CI Director John Brender.

Dr. John Brender, Wayne State University Confucius Institute (right) and John DeMado

“It’s important for Chinese language and cultural educators to have a local forum where they can freely share their ideas on teaching and learning,” said Brender. “You never know exactly what participants will take away from the conference through sessions or personal conversations, but it’s often more than you might realize.”

This year’s program included several sessions on teaching Chinese characters and pronunciation, on the use of music in Chinese instruction, and on effective use of mobile devices and other technologies to teach Chinese. This last group included an overview of the “Learn A Chinese Phrase” video series (http://clasweb.clas.wayne.edu/ci/LanguageVideos) that WSU-CI has developed to teach Chinese idioms through humorous skits.

The day also featured sessions on economic, cultural, and political topics, including an update on Michigan’s rapidly expanding governmental and business ties with China provided by Brian Connors, who serves as China business development manager for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Patrick Bresnahan, a Wayne State undergraduate studying finance and Chinese, presented research he conducted last year on the purchasing decisions of young adults in China. Bresnahan, who provides social media and marketing support to WSU-CI and taught English in rural China through a  WSU-CI volunteer program, received an undergraduate research grant to survey students at three Chinese universities and identify trends in consumption behaviors.

John DeMado, national language acquisition and curriculum development expert, presents at CLAM 2013