Learn New Words and Cultures at Language Clubs

International House programs connect Duke community with world

SangHee Jeong, program coordinator with the International House, center, practices her Chinese at a recent Chinese Conversation Club. It's one of sevearl weekly language and cultural learning groups offered through Duke's International House. Photo by Br

Seated in groups of three or four, about 10 Duke community members held sheets in front of them as they phonetically recited words from the pages.

"Nin hao! Jin tian nin yao zhao shen me yi fu ya?" said SangHee Jeong, program coordinator with the International House who is from South Korea and is working to improve her Chinese conversational skills. She was asking a student partner, "Hello! What clothes are you looking for today?"

"wo jiu sui bian kan kan," the student partner replied. "I'll have a look."

The exchange was part of a language exercise in Chinese that had the two acting out roles of shopper and clothing store employee during the latest session of the Chinese Conversation Club at Duke's International House. The club is one of several free cross-cultural and foreign language programs hosted through International House, which also offers English and Spanish clubs that focus on cultural and language learning.

Groups meet every Monday and Tuesday evening at the International House, 300 Alexander Ave.

At each session, Duke employees interact and learn from one another and students while discussing cultural topics and informally practicing a language. All Duke community members are welcome no matter their native language or if they're just starting to learn a new one.

"We really want to be helpful and spread ideas of global citizenship," said SangHee Jeong, program coordinator with the International House. "If you don't take action to learn more, you can end up isolated culturally. There's value from bringing people together to learn from each other."

Deedra McClearn recently joined the Chinese Conversation Club for the first time, where Pengfei Hu, a Duke graduate student from China, gives weekly presentations about his home country and organizes language exercises in Chinese. He's joined by fellow graduate student and co-facilitator, Monika Hu.

Topics have ranged from social media and pop culture to the modernization of the country. During the Jan. 15 gathering, Hu discussed China's many ethnic groups, giving details about the Han, China's most populous ethnic group, as well as the Hui and Miao people.

McClearn said she decided to join the conversation club because as director of global academic program development in the Office of Global Strategy and Programs, she'll be working to build curriculum for Duke Kunshan University.

"It's a new part of the world to me," said McClearn, who previously worked with study abroad programs in Africa and Latin America. "I want to understand more about what an international program in China should be like and you never really get it unless you talk to people."

Hu noted that in an increasingly globalized world, where connections between Duke and China continue to grow, further understanding of any Chinese culture is a good thing.

"It's important to broaden your perspective and view of the world," Hu said. "If you learn something new, it can only be good for you."