Basketball star raises profile of Mandarin exchanges

Updated: 2012-02-17 15:14

By Chang Jun and Linda Deng (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

 Basketball star raises profile of Mandarin exchanges

Kobe Bryant at Gertz-Ressler High School in Los Angeles on Thursday to host 10 visiting children from China for a Chinese cultural exchange program that he initiated in 2010. Linda Deng / China Daily

LOS ANGELES - Kobe Bryant, the basketball superstar with the Los Angeles Lakers, spent his Thursday afternoon with 10 visiting children from China and their American peers at Gertz-Ressler High School, which since 2010 has had a Mandarin cultural exchange program that Bryant initiated.

In front of his admirers from home and abroad, Bryant shared his basketball skills and his affection for China, a nation where he said he always "feels at home" and "enjoys a great relationship."

Reports say that visiting Vice-President Xi Jinping, a sports fan, is expected to attend the Lakers-Suns game on Thursday night before boarding his flight for Ireland.

In the past two years, Bryant has been using his international popularity to help facilitate a better understanding of the US-China relationship among American teens.

In March 2010, his family foundation teamed up with Los Angeles-based after-school program provider After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles (ASAS-LA). The partnership resulted in the launch of a Mandarin language and culture program. Bryant serves as the ambassador for the program.

Asked about his initiative, Bryant said the majority of his childhood spent overseas "allows me to experience and understand other cultures and broaden my horizons beyond my hometown of Philadelphia. I just want youths now to have the same feelings I had growing up".

ASAS-LA has established six Mandarin programs in six schools across Los Angeles, said Shannon Mayock, director of marketing and communications for the nonprofit organization.

Susan Jain, executive director of UCLA's Confucius Institute, recalled how she worked with the ASAS-LA staff to cultivate a culturally enriched curriculum.

"Why not start with Wushu (martial arts)?" she said, thinking that might be a good platform for families and children who know this aspect of Chinese culture to be introduced to the language.

Kelly Araujo, a 16-year old junior at Gertz-Resssler High School, said she has learned persistence, patience and resilience from the practice of Wushu.

"Before (learning Wushu and in the Mandarin program), I was not patient at all", said Araujo, who added that she was proud of having the opportunity to learn from renowned Wushu master Hu Jianqiang.

Hu has competed against martial artist and actor Jet Li in national martial arts championships in China.

The Mandarin exchange program has integrated other elements of the Chinese culture, such as cooking, calligraphy and singing.

To date, the organization has enrolled 200 students from middle and high schools from the greater Los Angeles area and the numbers are expected to grow rapidly, said Anna Campos, president and executive director of ASAS-LA.

Last summer, the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, an institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education that is also known as Hanban, invited 11 children from the Mandarin program of the ASAS-LA, to tour Beijing and Shanghai.

"It's a life-changing experience," said Leslie Guzman, a senior at Gertz-Ressler High School. She went on a two-week trip to China last year, saying she still keeps in contact with several Chinese friends.

"I sent them cards for Valentine's Day," she said.

Cao Diefeng, an official with Hanban's Confucius Institute Affairs, said in 2011, Confucius Institutes around the world made remarkable achievements and created positive trends for growth.

By the end of August 2011, 353 Confucius Institutes and 473 Confucius Classrooms were established in 104 countries and regions around the world.

China Daily