High School students participated in the celebration of the lunar new year last February as part of the Dual Immersion Language program in Chinese. (Lichelle Jenkins /The Signpost)
High School students participated in the celebration of the lunar new year last February as part of the Dual Immersion Language program in Chinese.
(Lichelle Jenkins /The Signpost)

The Department of Foreign Languages at Weber State University wants to expand the Mandarin Chinese language program offered to students because of the increasing demand of Chinese Language courses in recent years.

Beginning fall semester, WSU will start to offer an Associate of Arts in Chinese. The program requirements include 12 credit hours in language courses and three credit hours either through a study abroad or language proficiency course.

Currently, WSU does not offer a degree in Chinese– Utah Valley University and Utah State University offer a Chinese minor and Brigham Young University and the University of Utah offer bachelors degrees in Chinese.

“This year we started an A.A. in Mandarin Chinese, and we would like to begin offering a B.A. in the near future,” Craig Bergeson, head of the Department of Foreign Languages and Spanish professor at WSU, said, “The major obstacle is funding to hire the necessary faculty. However, we are moving in that direction.”

Melissa Pittman, a Chinese language instructor at WSU, has been working to build the Chinese program since it’s beginning in 2009. In the fall of 2016, Pittman will start teaching courses at the 3000 level. Eventually, she hopes to include business Chinese and upper division courses.

“Chinese will happen. It’s just a matter of time,” Pittman said.

According to Dr. Tom Mathews, a Spanish language professor at WSU and member of the committee developing the Spanish Dual Language Immersion program, another major reason for growing the Chinese and other language programs is to keep up with the large number of dual language immersion students in the public school systems in Davis and Weber counties.

Students in DLI programs begin their language studies when they enter Kindergarten, where they spend half the day learning and speaking in Chinese. (The Singpost/Lichelle Jenkins)
Students in DLI programs begin their language studies when they enter Kindergarten, where they spend half the day learning and speaking in Chinese.
(The Singpost/Lichelle Jenkins)

Once they reach 9th grade, DLI students are ready to take Advanced Placement Chinese.

Professors from nearby universities are teaching courses at high schools and students will receive college credit. Once they graduate, WSU will need to offer courses that will serve students with near fluent language capabilities.

“All the student that are coming from the Dual Immersion program are going to need our help,” Pittman said. “They are going to be taking classes from the university, and we need to be ready for that.”

Mathews said that studying another language helps to open up the minds of students and to offer a broader perspective of the world and of the culture that is being studied.

“Seeing the same object might be interpreted very differently by another culture, and it’s not a matter of right or wrong,” Mathews said.

According to the U.S. Department of Travel, 1.9 million passengers flew to China with 1.2 million flying to Hong Kong in 2012, and business trips to China increased by 7.2 percent in 2013.

The Global Business Travel predicts that in 2016, China will become the world’s most dominant business travel market over the U.S.  If students are going into business, chances are they’ll spend some time in China or working with the Chinese.

While many schools grow their business programs in tandem with their Chinese programs, WSU has fallen behind.

“We have tens or dozens of Chinese students here on campus from China studying mostly business through the business school and the idea is that they will learn English,” Mathews said.  “We send students to China but not so much to become fluent in Chinese. It’s just not a part of the American psyche. ‘Oh, I want to do business in Germany. I should learn German.'”

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