It all began with students learning the art of calligraphy.
“It is an art. Calligraphy is an art,” she said.
The transition from this to Chinese seems almost natural given the flow of the language’s writing.
“After that they expressed an interest in learning a language. They expressed an interest in Chinese,” Authement said.
To help inspire the students, the teacher brought some of her Chinese items to class to show the students.
“When I lived in China, I got a few scrolls on silk,” she said. “It was writing in Chinese characters but calligraphy style.
“I also brought one done by a student for my wedding.”
Well, that cinched the proposition.
Now, they wanted to learn Chinese.
They were fascinated.
“After two or three weeks they could go to those scrolls, and they would recognize characters,” she said.
“Some of them did go to a Chinese restaurant and say a few words in Chinese,” she said, emphasizing that this was to the astonishment of their mothers.
Now these students are not going to be carrying on conversations in Chinese or writing their essays in it.
“It is an introduction,” Authement said. “We didn’t learn the language.
“Some can count in Chinese.”
Being fluent was not the goal of the class.
“The goal was to expose them and leave them with something,” she said.
And what each student received was not just knowledge but a book—that they wrote.
“They could talk about their family, favorite foods, hobbies or whatever,” she said.
“Then they came up with an idea to do English on the bottom of the page.
“So they translated the writing, and that is why we came up with that.”
While each student received one free copy of their own book, all were given the chance to purchase more.
“Some of them gave them as gifts.”
Authement said that it is important for students to be exposed to different cultures and languages when they are young.
Some, she said, have expressed an interest in continuing to learn this language.
“The kids embraced it,” she said.
And teaching the language was a pleasure for Authement.
She graduated at the top of her class in 1978 from Moscow University with a double major of international business relations and Chinese.
She also has her doctorate but does not claim it, because the bureaucracy involved in proving it to the U.S. education system is so complex.
Through the years, she has used her knowledge of the language to hold several positions, including that of college professor.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.