Stardom in the States

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/17 5:03:39

The Chinese teacher behind Trump’s granddaughter’s talent


Jing Yongtai takes the subway home every night from the center of New York City. Photo: Courtesy to Xu Ke

Jing Yongtai, one of thousands of Chinese-language teachers in New York City, has suddenly found herself in the spotlight.

Jing, 27, from East China's Zhejiang Province, studied and is currently working in the US. Last month, she became famous back in China because of one student she taught - US President Donald Trump's granddaughter.

Jing started studying in the US in 2008, gaining degrees from both Columbia University and City University of New York. Afterward, she decided to stay in New York and start her career in the education industry, focusing on bilingual teaching, which is not very different from other Chinese graduates in the US.

From 2014 to 2015, Arabella Kushner, Trump's granddaughter, who was 3 years old at the time, became Jing's student at the private Carousel of Languages school in Manhattan, Quartz reported. With Arabella's rising popularity in China and the US, Jing has also started becoming more and more famous, and media in both the US and China have started to report her story.

Jing's life is becoming increasingly busier, and sometimes she has to work seven days a week.

A screenshot from the video showing Arabella's performance that Donald Trump showed to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to China this month. Photo: Xinhua

A famous student

Trump's visit to China has left a deep impression on Chinese people, and his granddaughter's performance showing off her Chinese skills through video clips has captured the attention of the Chinese public.

Official Chinese media including the People's Daily, CCTV and the Xinhua News Agency have posted Arabella's video on their Weibo accounts, receiving more than 190,000 likes and 37,000 shares collectively.

Arabella's mother Ivanka Trump is very proud of her daughter's performance which received an "A+" from Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan. While appearing on Fox News' TV program Fox & Friends on Monday, Ivanka said "It was so sweet" when mentioning her daughter's performance, which her father showed to Xi during his visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing. 

"She was blushing. She had me show it [the footage of Trump showing Xi the video of the performance] to her over and over again. She worked very hard to put that little performance together," Ivanka said. Apart from reciting ancient Chinese poetry and singing folk songs, the last song that Arabella sang during her performance was the famous nursery rhyme "My Good Mother," which was written for Chinese children to sing to their tired mothers when they come home from work.

When the hosts from Fox News asked Ivanka about Arabella and her brothers being taught Chinese, Ivanka replied, "I'm very fortunate to be able to have a lot of help to support me because I definitely could not have taught her how to do that." Jing was one of the people who offered help to Trump's family.

Patrizia Corman, the founder of Carousel of Languages, said that children from many "influential families" are enrolled in their programs. She confirmed that all three of Ivanka's and Jared Kushner's children-Arabella, 3-year-old Joseph and 1-year-old Theodore-have attended Mandarin classes at her institution "multiple times a week."

"A very admirable family," she said, Quartz reported, without elaborating on their classroom sessions.

When Jing taught these children in Trump's family from 2014 to 2015, no one ever expected that their grandfather would go on to be elected as the President of the United States in 2016.

Jing highly values Arabella's learning capability, gifts and language skills. She can use Chinese to communicate with Jing during class sessions with no obstacles. And her gifts in expression, social skills and cognition are better than most children her age, Jing said.

Far from home

Originally, Jing didn't plan to study in the US. "I'd planned to go to Singapore," she said. But accidentally, she passed the university entrance exam for US institutions when she finished her high school studies in China.

Becoming a bilingual teacher is very competitive, since the profession often comes with a decent salary. And according to Quartz, if American parents want their children to learn Chinese the Kushner way, it will cost a whopping $75,000 per year.

During the winter, there is a 13-hour time difference between the East Coast of the US and China, and since she is so busy, she only has time to call her family in China before she goes to bed. Currently, she is preparing to set up her own educational institution, and her busy schedule has left her no time to communicate with her family for two to three weeks.

Jing told the Global Times that because demand for Chinese early-education in the US has increased rapidly, and the shortage of qualified teachers, this is also changing her life. 

"When I was a teacher, I enjoyed it a lot. But now I am a manager and I train young teachers. This makes me very busy and I have no time for hobbies or to stay with my family," she said.

Americans are acknowledging China's growing influence and international status, that's why many families in the US think that learning Chinese will make their children more competitive, Jing said. 

Educational institutions from China also see this opportunity, Jing added. "Many Chinese early-education institutes providing bilingual teaching services are also exploring the US market, which challenges local pre-schools like us."

Having taught the US president's granddaughter doesn't change Jing's work that much, but growing media interview requests have interrupted her life to some extent. 

She is now more familiar with the US, and she is pursuing her dream by providing better Chinese language education to American children.



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