Panel discussion on online English teaching and leaning in the conference. More than 300 VIPKID teachers who gathered Wednesday for the company's second regional conference in Dallas, the U.S. state of Texas. (Photo: Xinhua)
It might be challenging for Americans to teach Chinese students English online, but the unique experience of learning and sharing cultures with Chinese families is much more fulfilling.
This is the view shared by more than 300 VIPKID teachers who gathered Wednesday in Dallas, the U.S. state of Texas, for the company's second regional conference.
Founded in 2013, VIPKID is a Chinese online education company which has hired over 60,000 native speakers in North America, mostly in the United States, to teach English online mainly for children under 12.
Working for the online learning service, teachers can publish schedules online based on their own time arrangements and teach classes from wherever there is internet accessible.
For many of the teachers, a relationship is built not only personally but also culturally, as they get a chance to learn more about China when teaching Chinese children English.
American teacher Joan Grabowski, who joined VIPKID in March, told Xinhua at the conference that she got interested in Chinese culture and history through lessons provided by the company.
To her, teaching seven Chinese children English is a fascinating experience during which she builds personal connections with families on the other side of the world.
"There is a lot of personal connections between the family in China and the teachers' family in the U.S.," she said, adding that "Chinese people are so eager and want to share their culture and learn our culture. It's thrilling. It's such a good experience."
The online English learning service has been welcomed by more Chinese parents over the past two years and is building a bridge over cultural differences by meeting demand from both China and overseas.
With a number of online English learning companies for children emerging, the number of customers is expected to reach nearly 8 million and the market value may exceed 5 billion yuan (about 730 million U.S. dollars) in 2019, according to an analysis report released by China's consulting company iResearch in 2017.
Besides English learning, VIPKID started its online Chinese learning service last year, and has more than 10,000 students now, many of them are children of the company's English teaching staff and Kris Hiwell is one of them.
Being a special education teacher, Hiwell was introduced to VIPKID by his wife who has been teaching for the company for more than a year. Now his 12-year-old son is learning Chinese through the company's program "Lingo Bus."
"They say the language of the future is Mandarin and my son is learning it already," he said.
Hiwell and his wife are considering moving to China to be full-time English teachers in order to give their son a better language environment.
Kevyn Klein, VIPKID Global Director of Community, told Xinhua that the company aims at creating global citizens both in the United States and in China by bridging gap between the two countries.
"Kids in China are growing up seeing teachers in the U.S. and understanding the U.S. culture. American teachers who have never been outside of the country before, all of a sudden, appreciate the Chinese culture," she noted.