U promotes study of Chinese language

Ed Swaray

The University’s China Center celebrates China Day at Coffman Union today along with 400 metro area high school students who are studying Chinese.

“The idea is to encourage high school students with their study of the Chinese language,” said Sarah Joy Rinkenberger, a China Center program associate.

She said students will also see opportunities the University offers for Chinese language learners.

The China Center and the Asian languages and literatures department organized the event, which will include comments from University Provost Christine Maziar and faculty members as well as presentations from students and alumni.

One of the celebration’s highlights will be a live video-link discussion between high school students and their Chinese counterparts in Beijing, Rinkenberger said.

The discussion will be taped for viewing on “Meet China,” a weekly Chinese television show with approximately 900 million viewers, she said.

Interest in studying Chinese has piqued among high school students, Rinkenberger said. Five high schools in the metro area now offer Chinese as a second language.

Peiju Ruan, a teacher at Minnetonka High School, said when she began teaching Chinese 10 years ago, 15 students were enrolled in the school’s Chinese program.

Today, she said, there are 150 students enrolled in the program.

She said students are interested in Chinese for various reasons, including interest in Chinese history and culture, a desire to pursue a degree in international business and having a love of Chinese calligraphy.

Ruan said some parents influence their children to learn the language because they have business interests in China.

She said her students have traveled to China three times and excitement about trips has increased enrollment in the program.

“China Day is very important because it promotes Chinese culture and it is a good experience for the students,” she said.

Joseph Allen, director of the Asian languages and literatures department, said that as China emerges as a world power, Chinese is going to be a principle international language within 50 years.

Allen said the program culminates a week of activities to make Asian language studies more visible at the University.

He said the University offers Asian language courses in Chinese, Hindi, Hmong, Japanese and Korean.