Chinese goes out of this world


From left to right: Zhigang Zhai, Guangfu Ye, and Yaping Wang sit side by side. They are the current taikonauts in China’s space mission, and will be the ones answering questions and responding to video submissions.

Hannah Liu, Staff Writer

Taikonauts–taken from the Mandarin word, “tàikōng”, is a term referred to Chinese astronauts. They are the ones that help push the boundaries of science, and the ones who are currently working under China’s longest space mission yet. 

Then there are the students at Jefferson, navigating their way through their passions and finding ways to pursue their interests. Adjunctly, there are the teachers that help guide them, expanding the opportunities for them to explore beyond the traditional combination of textbooks and quizzes.

One of these opportunities, promoted by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, has allowed for Jefferson students enrolled in Chinese to connect with taikonauts through a video submission, asking a question that many of us wonder: what is it truly like out there as an astronaut?

“They had a first round with elementary students, and the second round with middle and high school students. They were hoping for lots of engagement from American students, which they did. They got hundreds of questions submitted,” Chinese teacher Mian Chen, said. 

This unique opportunity has allowed for students to not only to converse in the complex language of Chinese outside of the classroom setting, but to also understand the lifestyle in space: complicated, stressful, but also extremely fulfilling.

For sophomore Myles Carley, his video submission for this event has allowed him to connect Chinese towards his interest in astronomy. 

“My Chinese teacher, Mrs. Chen, knew that I was very interested in astronomy. She actually reached out to me, and I thought it would be a really great opportunity to connect to the professional space exploration world,” said Carley. 

His question, spoken in Chinese, was, “Now that the taikonauts have experienced what it’s like to be on a space station, what would they have changed about their training to best prepare them?” 

Out of hundreds of submissions sent to the Embassy, Myles’ was one of three videos selected to be answered by the taikonauts themselves. The video premier of the questions and answers will take place at The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in D.C.

“Sometimes we don’t get to expose students to that kind of vocabulary in class. But this way, students can look up words on their own and incorporate the foreign language learning portion to their STEM interests,” Chen said.