Tega Cay educator teaches Chinese about America

joverman@fortmilltimes.comJuly 30, 2013 

— When teacher Martha Menchinger returns to her classes in the fall, she will have an exciting “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” story to tell.

Menchinger, a Tega Cay resident who teaches media technology at the Applied Technology Center in Rock Hill, spent five weeks in China teaching American culture to Chinese educators.

The Chinese teachers teach the English language, but don’t know much about American culture, Menchinger said.

Menchinger was one of 12 teachers selected for the program, called the Total Immersion Methodology Program.

“So imagine a Chinese teacher spending 12 days with us, and doing the whole thing in English,” Menchinger said. “Surprisingly, some of them don’t speak English well at all.”

Lessons included the expected – learning about American symbols and landmarks – and the unexpected, such as American slang and sports like disc golf.

“I did an entire lesson on our terms of endearment: ‘sugar, honey, sweetie pie.’ You wouldn’t believe how funny this ended up being,” Menchinger said.

The goal for the Chinese teachers is to learn more about American culture and improve their English skills.

Menchinger says she speaks “conversational Chinese,” only enough “to ask for where things are, how much they cost and order a beer,” she said, but has visited the country twice before this trip.

She is considering returning after retirement to continue the work she began this summer.

There are a few things she has missed in her weeks away. Namely, flushing toilet paper down the toilet.

“Their plumbing doesn’t have enough water pressure to handle toilet paper,” she said.

Food also has been an adventure, she added. Rice is not a traditional food as many expect, she said, and foods are served in an unusual order. Dumplings often end meals, or sometimes watermelon.

Sea cucumber and donkey have been on the menu.

“I have no idea what the meat is sometimes,” she said.

The group of American teachers return to the United States on July 31. The program has been a success, Menchinger said, noting that she has received more than 300 thank-you letters from Chinese teachers already.

“I think this will help me a lot with my teaching,” one of the students wrote. “My students will be getting more and more interested in English. I’ll be popular with my students.”

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