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New Post 31.12.2008 15:12
  shuai
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Mandarin Chinese Program sees resurgence with new professor 

Mandarin Chinese Program sees resurgence with new professor

With China rapidly rising as an economic powerhouse, more and more Cal Poly students have been taking advantage of the modern languages and literatures department's Mandarin Chinese language program.

The program, which has been plagued with financial woes and a lack of instructors willing to stay for an extended period of time, is starting to gather momentum again with current full-time lecturer Sophia Chen.

"We hope to build," said Brian Kennelly, chair of modern languages and literatures. "The two countries that really are going to eclipse the United States if they haven't already done so, are both Asian countries: China and India. And so for that reason alone, it behooves all of our students to at least know something about Asian culture."

Chen agreed, saying that not only are her students learning a language, they are learning how to handle a new culture with respect.

"Some students told me they want to learn Chinese just because they want to see the mysterious Chinese culture," she said. "Culture is important too because if you know only the language, you don't know how to interact with people in China and then you're going have some problems too."

In helping to bring that cultural experience to Cal Poly, Chen said she is planning to have a traditional Chinese New Year's celebration at the end of January. Since the Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar, the exact date is different every year.

Chen also said she wants to have Chinese movie nights once or twice a month. She will be on hand to answer any questions about Chinese culture after the films, which will have English subtitles.

Kennelly pointed out that cultural sensitivity is going to be vitally important because students who wish to do business with the Chinese will have to follow a different social blueprint than has been done in the past.

"(Foreigners) will probably not want work under the same rules that people in the 20th century did, and that is play by the United States' rules. We're going to have to play by their rules," Kennelly said. "We're going to need to be communicating with the Chinese in their own language using what we know about their own culture on their own terms versus having them do everything in English and visiting us here in the United States."

Morgan O'Hara, a graduate student getting a master's degree in business administration, found himself drawn to Chen's class at first for the "novelty" of it. After one quarter, he was hooked. 

"I wouldn't recommend the class to anyone who wants to get an easy grade but if you want to learn Chinese or you're interested in Chinese culture, I think it's definitely worth your while," O'Hara said. "It's a big world. It's really important so I think it would be a great benefit to Cal Poly students that they have this opportunity and this advantage."

Although the program's future is somewhat more secure than it has been in the past, Kennelly said the more students that sign up, the more likely it is to advance and perhaps someday become a larger part of the modern languages and literatures program.

"The basic step would be of course to get students to be studying Mandarin," Kennelly said. "And in five or 10 years, we'll look back and say 'wow, look how far we've come.' I'll do whatever I can to help it."


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