Chinese Program Talent Show: Cultural Immersion through Language and the Arts

The Chinese Program held its first annual talent show on April 8, 2022 at the MSU International Center, featuring Chinese songs, dances, calligraphy, traditional storytelling, Chinese tongue twisters, poetry reading, and language games led by program faculty. These activities had been incorporated into classes for weeks in advance to motivate student learning inside and outside the classroom.

Two students demonstrate Chinese dances in front of a projected screen
Students demonstrate Chinese dances

Thirty students signed up as performers to demonstrate their Chinese proficiency with the phrases and expressions they have studied while showcasing their artistic talents and individual creativity. The performers were encouraged to speak solely in Chinese after class to prepare for the event, as they practiced Mandarin pop songs, Chinese folk and hip-hop dances, telling Chinese stories and jokes, and writing Chinese characters in a variety of calligraphy styles. The faculty worked closely with students on their language presentations. Lucas Pitser, a student from CHS 402, wrote introductory remarks and emceed the entire event in Chinese. All six faculty members and one Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant joined the students in singing and dancing, while also guiding the educational activities such as calligraphy tables, tongue twisters, and a Chinese charade competition. Prizes were given to performers and participating audience members through the generous support of the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures and the Office of China Programs.  

A large group of students of Chinese write Chinese characters in a variety of calligraphy styles in a classroom
Students of the Chinese Programs write Chinese characters in a variety of calligraphy styles

Some students shared their thoughts about how this talent show opened the door to a deeper appreciation for cultural learning outside of class, and how they have formed long-term friendships with classmates as language partners to support one another through the challenging but exciting journey of language learning. Xiaoshi Li, the talent show’s director, and collaborating colleagues Ho-Hsin Huang, Xuefei Hao, Lina Qu, and Wenying Zhou all commented that it was exciting to see students’ interest in language and cultural acquisition increase, and how organizing this event inspired them to incorporate more creative assignments in class.

Many students sit in front of speaker playing language games at the Chinese Program Talent Show in a small lecture hall.
Student singing a Chinese song at the Chinese Program Talent Show

The event was entirely Chinese immersive so that students studying Chinese could apply their language ability to daily life. Moreover, the event was open to the MSU community to encourage students, faculty, and staff from outside the program to learn about Chinese language and cultures. The talent show successfully enriched and diversified the program curricula. It also contributed to the outreach efforts of other campus units such as the Asian Studies Center, the Office of China Programs, the Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts & Humanities, and the International Fulbright Language Teaching Program. 

Chinese Program Director Tze-lan Sang introduces a performance at the Chinese Program Talent Show in front of a projected screen
Chinese Program Director Tze-lan Sang introduces a performance at the Chinese Program Talent Show

As Chinese Program Director Tze-lan Sang remarks, this was the first large in-person event organized by the program since the pandemic started in 2020. During the pandemic, the program actively created various remote cultural activities for students to apply their language ability through engaging with Chinese cultures. For instance, weekly cultural events hosted by FLTA Loreina Hsien featured Chinese festivals, traditional food, tea, medicine (acupuncture), music, opera, movies, TV shows, Taiwanese indigenous cultures, and fun facts about Hong Kong. The program will continue to host cultural events with fun interactions to share Chinese cultures with the MSU community as well as the Greater Lansing public.