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Chinese publishing group teams up with Yale in US$5.5m language drama
Publication Date : 15-06-2013
China International Publishing Group and Yale University have launched what they claim is the world's first drama series aimed at helping to teach Mandarin to beginners.
The two sides held a launch event for the new integrated multimedia programme, Encounters: Chinese Language and Culture, in Beijing on Friday.
The 20-episode series tells the story of several US citizens during their stay in China, and the stories of their Chinese friends.
Based around the video series, they have created accompanying textbooks for teachers and students, and developed other products, including DVDs, audio and a rap song.
The resources are available on encounterschinese.com.
"Growing foreign exchanges with China mean the Chinese language is drawing increasing attention worldwide," said Zhou Mingwei, president of China International Publishing Group.
"The enthusiasm for Mandarin presents a growing challenge for publishers to provide good learning materials to students."
Zhou said he is confident that Encounters will become widely recognized as an ideal platform for Mandarin study.
Han Hui, a chief editor at Sinolingua Co Ltd, a China International Publishing subsidiary that specializes in Chinese language teaching and learning materials for foreigners, added: "It is fair to say that Encounters is, both at home and abroad, the first Mandarin teaching material that blends language and cultural knowledge in a 20-episode plot.
"Encounters is different from any published Mandarin learning materials in terms of teaching method. It is a total immersion program that provides a Mandarin language environment to the learners.
"The videos, textbooks and online resources are integrated, so that users will find the learning material much more enriched than previous textbooks," she said.
An especially strong feature of Encounters, she added, is the cultural detail that is used throughout.
"The first 20 episodes include 60 cultural details, from ancient science in China to Chinese people's habit of taking naps," she said.
Encounters is already being used as a teaching tool in 40 universities and high schools in the United States.
The accompanying textbooks were compiled by Yale professors, and their Chinese counterparts were responsible for scriptwriting and filming.
The project cost US$5.5 million to put together, half from China and half from the US.
Yale President Richard Levin, who did not manage to attend the ceremony, described Encounters as "a truly monumental collaborative effort" between Yale and China International Publishing Group.
"I believe this collaborative effort will prove to be a powerful Chinese language and cultural learning tool for thousands of learners," Levin said in a statement.
"I also hope that, true to its name, Encounters will become a bridge that spans East and West."
After Encounters I, being targeted at beginners, the publishers are already preparing Encounters II for more advanced learners.
Inda Duzih Pitkanen, a 35-year-old Indonesian who has been in China for four years, and who has been teaching herself Mandarin for two years, said the program "will not only be useful and helpful, but also interesting for prospective learners".
She added: "Audio-visual media is more powerful in many ways. As an independent, Mandarin beginner, I would enjoy a more elaborate kind of language teaching, which offers cultural and historical content, in English."