Using American culture, ideas as teaching tools in Taiwan

August 08, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Nicole L. Sprinkle will teach her Taiwanese students the English words they'll need to discuss art and literature. But she also plans to throw in a few Carroll County standbys: Can you say pie a la mode? Biscuits and gravy? Ham and cheese on white?

Ms. Sprinkle, 22, of Westminster, said she will take a menu from Baugher's Country Restaurant along next month when she travels to Taiwan for a nine-month teaching stint.

"You can't get much more American than Baugher's," she said of the city restaurant.

Ms. Sprinkle, a 1990 graduate of Westminster High School and a June graduate of Ohio University, will teach conversational English to college freshmen at Feng Chia University in Taichung, Taiwan.

She and her boyfriend of two years, Matthew Weingarten, 21, of Montgomery County, will travel halfway around the world with five other Ohio University graduates as part of a school program.

Ms. Sprinkle said she also will videotape local newscasts and possibly some American sitcoms and dramas to use as teaching tools. "There are going to be very intelligent people [in the classes]. I want to find things to interest them without insulting them," she said.

A Columbia, Howard County, woman who is a Taiwan native, is tutoring Ms. Sprinkle and Mr. Weingarten in Chinese, which is spoken in Taiwan. They are learning the distinct tones of the language and how to write a simplified version of the characters that represent letters.

The tutor has instructed Ms. Sprinkle, who is left-handed, to learn to write the characters with her right hand because almost all Taiwanese are right-handed and the strokes must be made in a certain order.

The language is structurally simple, Ms. Sprinkle said. Verbs usually are not conjugated and sometimes are left out of spoken sentences, she said.

Pronunciation is important. One word can have five different meanings, depending which of five tones of voice is used to pronounce it, she said.

Ms. Sprinkle is becoming comfortable with the sounds of Chinese, which sometimes are guttural and deep. Her tutor gave her a Chinese name -- Shr Uen Qien -- that means she is pretty, enjoys literature and culture and follows through on projects.

"I'm definitely nervous about the language. But the good thing is a lot of people there speak English," she said.

Ms. Sprinkle became interested in Oriental art and literature while at Ohio University. She and Mr. Weingarten took a course in Oriental literature, in which they read ancient novels and diaries and more modern short stories.

She and the other students will have many opportunities to learn about Chinese culture during their stay, said Hwa-Wei Lee, dean of university libraries at Ohio University and program coordinator.

Taichung is the third-largest city in Taiwan, with a population of about 765,000. "It's the cultural center of Taiwan," Dr. Lee said.

The city has a number of universities, museums and a good library and is doing well economically, he said.

Also, many Chinese traditions that have been lost in mainland China have been preserved in Taiwan, he said. Taiwanese people continue to use a traditional style of writing and maintain respect for teachers and family customs, he said.

Dr. Lee, a native of China who has lived in Taiwan, said his 22-year-old son, Robert, will teach English in the Ohio University program.

This is the 15th year Ohio University has offered the program, Dr. Lee said. Between 25 and 30 people usually apply for the handful of spots. Officials at Feng Chia University review the applications and choose the teachers.

The Taiwanese university is 33 years old and offers strong engineering and business programs, Dr. Lee said.

Participants in the teaching program will receive plane fare, a place to live, a monthly stipend and organized tours in exchange for teaching a two-hour class each day, he said. Some also will be advisers for student clubs.

The teachers may enroll in free classes to study Chinese, calligraphy and other Asian disciplines.

"It will be a very exciting thing," Dr. Lee said.

Ms. Sprinkle said she and Mr. Weingarten became interested in the teaching program because they both wanted to travel before settling into careers.

She hopes to become a magazine journalist, possibly in New York City, and he is considering working as a chef.

She said they hope to visit Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and India.

Ms. Sprinkle's mother, Jean Thompson, and her stepfather, Charles W. Thompson Jr. of Westminster, plan to visit Taiwan in January.

Ms. Sprinkle's father, Jeffrey Sprinkle, and stepmother, Diane Sprinkle, also live in Westminster.

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