By Ose Arheghan
In the last five years, I have moved three times, been in three different schools and two different school districts but throughout all of these changes, my study of Chinese has remained constant. In every Chinese class I have been in, no matter the district, the school or the teacher, the Confucius Institute’s Confucius Festival has been considered to be a beneficial experience for the students and for that, I am thankful. I performed with my class for the first time two years ago but this year, I did that and more.
As a junior in Mandarin IV, my class has the highest level of proficiency in the school. Because of this, we were responsible for producing our school’s performance for the festival. My teacher gave me the privilege of coming up with the concept and theme, along with directing our play. I was extremely excited because the Confucius Festival is how all the Chinese classes in the Cleveland area see what other students are learning and it gave my Chinese-learning friends from other schools the opportunity to see my work on stage. Because my classmates and I collectively love the music from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I decided we would recreate that moment on stage. We all represented different athletes and performed a closing ceremony skit where students gave speeches, showed off Olympic medals, sang and danced— all in Chinese.
When it got to the day of the performance, we were all excited, and nervous. None of us are actors (to be honest, we’re a bunch of nerds) but we all enjoy leaving our comfort zones each year for the festival performance. I was really happy because I got to learn more about my peers and highlight everyone’s strengths. The strong speakers delivered short monologues, the more artistically inclined students did a dance and the tech-savvy students made a PowerPoint which we played in the background. Our class really bonded over the whole experience and I get to say that I had a part in making it happen.
Recently, we had exchange students visit from our sister school in Hebei and my teacher showed them our Confucius Festival performance. Some of the students came up to me after watching my introduction and told me my Chinese speaking was very good. I was so excited to see that they enjoyed our performance because I felt like as a class, we put on a show that really displayed Chinese culture and our speaking abilities.
I remember when I was 11 years old at my first Confucius Festival and I did not have the language proficiency to comprehend most of the dialogue and jokes or the cultural awareness to recognize any of the stories and songs. I can look back on that moment and compare it to now as I perform skits in Mandarin, talk to Chinese students about jokes that do not quite translate to English and talk to my friends about our favorite Chinese songs and foods. Each October it is nice to go down to Cleveland State and see how much more information I can ascertain. I was excited this year because I recognized a lot of the stories the elementary students acted out. Most notably, a group of children acted out the race to determine the 12 Chinese zodiac animals and I remember translating that story into English in my class.
Next year, my senior year will be my final Confucius Festival before I go off to university. I am excited to be able to end my secondary school Chinese learning experience at the same event where I began. When I go to university I hope to study International Relations and plan to continue learning Mandarin. I believe that my middle school and high school experience as a part of a Confucius Classroom will give me an advantage in my language acquisition.