July 19, 2016

Mastering Language, Translating Culture

Image of Evangelista and her host father. Georgia native Evangelista traveled to Suzhou, China during the summer of 2012 to study Chinese as a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) participant. While studying Chinese, she discovered the richness of the Chinese culture by studying traditional Chinese music.

“I had come to study the language of Chinese, but I unexpectedly also learned the language of traditional Chinese music,” says Evangelista, who learned to play the hulusi, a wind instrument.

Reading Chinese sheet music at first was a struggle but Evangelista was eventually able to learn the unfamiliar system of notations, which are different than Western musical notes. Evangelista used these skills to assist with a cultural music class while in Suzhou where she taught fellow students how to read sheet music so they could learn to sing a traditional Suzhou ballad.

When Evangelista was not studying she spent time with her host family. Through spending time with them, Evangelista deepened her knowledge and appreciation of Chinese culture.

“My stay with my host family was better than I ever imagined it would be,” says Evangelista. “They treated me as if I was their own daughter. My host parents were always checking up on me to make sure I had eaten enough, to make sure I understood my homework... Communication with them was sometimes difficult, and there is so much still unsaid, but we grew close nonetheless, and I miss them very much.”

“Meals with my host family were my favorite activity because they not only allowed me to eat my host mom's fabulous cooking, but also allowed me to spend genuine time with my host family.”

Evangelista, who has been accepted to the Chinese Flagship program at Indiana University, plans to continue learning and teaching to build mutual understanding “I want to go to China to teach English. English teachers are in high demand in China, and, being good at English, I feel that I would enjoy this opportunity to share my native language while also applying the second language about which I am so passionate.”

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