Calls of "ni hao" welcome visitors who stop by the Business Education Building at Mississippi Valley State University this week.
The greetings of "hello" in Chinese come from first through eighth-graders who are learning the basics of Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and French at a month-long foreign language camp sponsored by Valley's International Program.
They're teaching uncommon languages but ones that have an importance in the era of globalization, said Dr. Kathie Golden, director of the International Program.
"If students in the Delta are going to be competitive, they need to learn languages," Golden said.
Thirty-five children are attending the Summer Language Institute from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Most of them come from Leflore County, but a few from places such as Jackson and Florida who are staying with grandparents for the summer are participating.
"They actually have to do homework," Golden said. "It's serious stuff."
They also have fun, though. They usually swim in the afternoon and went to hear B.B. King's performance at Valley last week.
The teachers are mostly working on numbers, letters and basic conversational phrases.
First- through third-graders in Dr. Pauline Pearson-Stamps' French class easily counted off from one to 20 Monday morning, and Abdelmoula Elkhdar's Arabic students seemed to have adjusted quickly to writing from right to left.
Elkhdar is from Morocco and teaches English at Valley.
"I'm always telling them if you learn Arabic it will help you to learn other languages like German or Chinese because it's rich," Elkhdar said.
Shomaré Haire, a senior to-be at Valley, is teaching the Chinese course. Haire learned the language while studying in Taiwan for six months in 2007. Haire, 20 and a business major, was the first exchange student ever at Diwan University in Taiwan.
Haire tells the kids that their job opportunities will double if they learn Chinese.
"That's where the market is going," Haire said.
His career plans give the kids something to shoot for. After he graduates from Valley, Haire is going back to Taiwan and will take language courses for a year before starting master's degree business courses.
Sylvia Gray, an international student adviser at Valley who came up with the idea for the program, said it's amazing to see the progress the children have made in their conversational skills in only three weeks. Some of the kids have reported back how they spoke Chinese while eating at China Blossom in Greenwood.
Gray hopes to hold the language program again next year and would like to get grant funding to expand it.
The camp finishes up June 24 with an International Night at 6 p.m. at the H.M. Ivy Cafeteria at MVSU. The community is invited to come see what they learned.