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Bennington College Freshman Beth Milligan leads students in the "Little Apple" dance, from a popular Chinese song by the Chopstick Brothers.

NORTH BENNINGTON >> Thanks to a partnership with Bennington College, sixth grade students at the Village School of North Bennington were able to get a year-long introductory lesson into Chinese language, culture, and history.

The two educational institutions have teamed up to bring languages into the school since 2013, when a group of Spanish and French language students came to the elementary school to complete their field work programs. The goal, said Bennington College freshman Beth Milligan, who was the instructor for the Chinese part of the program, is to introduce students to foreign cultures at a young age. During the first term, she came to the school twice a week, but was only to visit once a week in the second term, due to scheduling restrictions.

Working with Milligan, the students learned how to count, describe food, and more in Mandarin Chinese. The students showed off some of their accomplishments to their parents on Wednesday, during a celebration held at the school. The event was funded through a grant from the Fund for North Bennington.

"It has been an absolute pleasure to come here every week and work with the students," said Milligan, "There's real value in exposing children to different languages and cultures at a young age." The program began with the students performing the dance from the hit Chinese song "Little Apple," by the Chopstick Brothers. Milligan said it was the hottest song in China for a long time during the past year. The students then sang "Sorry! My Chinese is not so Good!" by Transition, which is a popular song among Mandarin learners. After sharing Chinese food, everyone sat down to watch "Monster Hunt," a Chinese film that came out last year and was met with great commercial success.


Milligan said this was her sixth year studying the language, as she has studied at an Ohio branch of the Confucius Institute, a state-run Chinese educational organization that facilitates cultural exchange internationally, and spent time in an intensive immersion program in Nanjing, China. She said she dealt with a few cultural misconceptions about the country, notably a student who asked if Chinese people eat cats, but that students were generally very receptive, especially to the fact that they could access a "secret menu" at Chinese restaurants if they speak Mandarin. She said it can be difficult for young people to conceptualize cultures other than their own.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.