Last night I went to the Chinese Spring Festival celebration organized by IU Chinese Student and Scholar Association. The performances were far more wonderful than I expected and the audiences were having such a good time in the IU auditorium. The hosts and hostesses were speaking both Chinese and English, while many performances used English subtitles. However, I still doubt audiences from other counties had had a close amount of happy moments compared with “us”.

What’s more, my journalism friend was preparing for a detailed report about this event. How would she engage her readers, most of whom are not Chinese? Is it possible to cover the real highlights, which were mostly related to popular culture and some common sense in China?

Knowledge of culture greatly affects one’s experience of such events. While language may be the first barrier, the greater deal breaker should be senselessness of “what’s popular”, “what’s so funny”, etc. Last night’s performances consist mostly of songs, dances, Xiaopin (a short scene reflecting certain characteristics of current society in a humorous way) and a mockup of a popular Chinese matchmaking show, where the later two were typically “only made in China”. For the choice of certain songs, it reminded me of my first time going to a football match where everyone was singing, dancing, making the “I! U!” gesture while I was trying to pick up some known words from the lyrics.

But still, it’s easy to tell the event director was trying to cover a larger scope of audiences by showing how well a Chinese girl can sing popular English songs and how fluent some non-natives can speak Chinese dialects. In addition, by employing traditional costumes from old Chinese literature, the performance contributed to building up an image of Chinese culture visually.

Some suggestions to help engaging non-natives:

Provide background information about the event and each performance, in email invitations, the menu, or other places;

Try to include content from Chinese culture but known by a broader group of audiences;

Spread Chinese culture in different ways to increase its influence and build up cultural common ground.

Feel free to add more 😉