ONLINE EXCLUSIVE by Amar Kapadia
If you have ever had to take a foreign language, chances are you may have taken Spanish or French, which are two of the more popular choices available. However, one language which you may not have thought of trying because it sounded too difficult is a language that more and more students are taking up. This language is spoken by more than a billion people, and that’s just in its country of origin. The language is Chinese.
Why are so many college students starting to study this ancient language? The answer has several reasons, but the fact is, China is gaining influence in the world. According to an article by Julie Trade at youngmoney.com, China’s economy right now is in much better shape than the United States’. Because of the poor economic situation in the U.S., says the site, an increasing number of students are looking for job opportunities overseas, “…particularly in China, where the economy remains strong”, writes Trade. This article goes on to say that because of China’s strong economy and large population, even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is studying Chinese so that the company can gain a foothold in the country.
Here at Rider, students are taking up Chinese as a foreign language. Dr. Wang Shunzhu (in Chinese the surname comes before the given name), associate professor of Chinese at Rider, gives several reasons for the increased attention given to the Chinese culture. “One might say the increasing influence of China, and the more important role China plays in global affairs,” he says. Also, he mentions that China’s large population of 1.3 billion inhabitants and other Chinese communities outside mainland China may also be a factor.
Besides also citing the economic downturn as a reason, Dr. Wang also says that curricular development has helped spark interest in students. “Since I came here [to teach at Rider], in addition to language courses, we also developed other cultural literary courses that a student who [did not] have a language background could be able to take [the course], so that they can sustain interest or see what’s going on,” he says. The introduction of Chinese calligraphy starting in the spring is one way to teach students about Chinese language and culture, Wang explains.
What do Rider students think about taking Chinese? Delecia McPherson, a sophomore Psychology major, feels that, “the Chinese language is something unique and very intricate. It ‘s very common for students to take Spanish, but in today’s generation I feel like there are more adventurous students where they want a challenge of a new and out of the ordinary language.” She also says that while she has learned a great deal about the Chinese culture, she likes the fact that the culture is “précised and detailed.”
Sean Alphonse, a Spanish major, says he picked to study Chinese, “partly because in high school [he] had taken Japanese and was interested in Asian culture and language.” He also says that while there are other languages being offered, Chinese is an “exotic” language. Like Wang, he too believes that taking Chinese will favor those who are majoring in business and economics. Alphonse also has other reasons to take Chinese: “Personally, I want to be a translator and taking Chinese was a great opportunity for me. And of course it’s a fun class,” he says.
Van Pham, a senior, is a double major in finance and accounting. He too believes that learning Chinese will help in today’s economy. “China has been growing drastically, becoming the second largest world economy,” he says. Pham, who is originally from Vietnam and has been exposed to the Chinese culture for a long time, says that, “Chinese population also accounts for 1/7 of the world population. Therefore, knowing Chinese is an advantage for me when I enter the professional working world after graduation.”
Another student, Kevin Tallaksen, explains that it was his Christian faith that partially led him to take up Chinese. He explains, “I became a Christian before my Freshman year and realized that many of the Chinese students had never heard about Jesus so it was a great opportunity to share with them.” He also says that through his exchange with the Chinese students, they learned some English, and he was able to pick up a little of the Chinese language, all while being able to share his faith. Yet he also believes that many students are taking up Chinese for economic reasons. “America and China do a lot of business with each other so it is a competitive edge in the business world to know the language,” he says.
There are several reasons why students should consider taking up Chinese, according to these students. The main reason that they all agree on is that China is quickly becoming an economic power and that learning the language will offer an advantage in getting a job in this tight economy. As Pham says, learning Chinese is important because “China has a rich culture of 5,000 years. Learning Chinese culture through the language will enrich students’ knowledge of the world outside the U.S., especially the Chinese culture. Second, learning Chinese will make students more competitive in the job market.”