With our world becoming more interconnected and globalized, it is important that colleges provide various language courses for their students. For this reason, Cal Lutheran should diversify and further integrate more Asian languages into the curriculum to nurture a global society.
As stated in Cal Lutheran’s mission statement, the mission of the University is to educate leaders for a global society who are strong in character and judgment, confident in their identity and vocation, and committed to service and justice.
Currently, the most spoken languages in the world include English, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi and Spanish. Although there are 1.31 billion Chinese speakers in the world, Cal Lutheran only provides two lower division Mandarin Chinese courses including Elementary Chinese and Intermediate Chinese.
“I think it would be beneficial to all students if there were more options for Mandarin or in other Asian languages like Korean or Hindi,” said Ximena Fernandez, a sophomore who has taken both the Elementary and Intermediate Chinese courses at Cal Lutheran.
If more people were aware of the department as a whole and benefits specifically in the business environment, I think more people would feel motivated to enroll in Mandarin Chinese.
“We have only 9 students registered in CHIN 101 and as of today, only 7 students registered in CHIN 102 in the Spring,” said Rafaela Fiore Urízar, department chair of Languages and Cultures..
To spread increased awareness, I think faculty in global studies fields should start each semester by talking to their students about how learning both the Chinese language and culture is a vital skill to possess, especially in the global business economy where it is seen as a huge competitive gain.
I believe it would also be an effective promotion tactic to discuss all the foreign language options Cal Lutheran offers and which are most useful in different fields for first-year or transfer students.
According to The European Business Review, China’s economy is the second largest in the world according to nominal GDP, representing about 16.34% of the entire global economy. China was also the only major economy to get through the tumultuous year of 2020 with an actual increase in GDP.
Many prominent figures such as former president Barack Obama understand that educating future generations will contribute to helping build solid relations with the dominant country of China.
In his presidency, Obama launched the “1 Million Strong Initiative” in November 2009 which aimed to increase the overall number of American students studying Mandarin in K-12 schools to 1 million by 2020.
In a speech he said, “If our countries are going to do more together around the world, then speaking each other’s language, truly understanding each other, is a good place to start.”
Occidental College and Pomona College, two neighboring liberal art private schools in the Los Angeles area, both offer in-depth Chinese and Japanese language programs. You can either major or minor in Mandarin or Japanese with various upper division courses to choose from. At Pomona College, there is even the option to take several courses in Korean.
If we offered more class options for the Chinese language department, a greater number of students would have more flexibility to select a class time that fits into their schedule. If we only offer one elementary Mandarin Chinese course per semester and it conflicts with students’ major courses, they will have less of an opportunity to enroll.
In my opinion, another factor affecting the lack of initiative to create upper division Mandarin Chinese courses stems from our Cal Lutheran student body having only 4.55% identify as Asian.
According to Data USA, in 2019 there were 196 enrolled students who identified as Asian at Cal Lutheran.
I think if there were more students and faculty with an Asian ethnic background on campus, there would be a higher probability for more upper division Chinese language courses to be offered.
As I studied abroad in Spain, it was crucial for me to adapt and learn the society’s values and communication style. Doing this helped me create stronger relationships because Spaniards knew I was putting in my best efforts. This influenced better intercultural communication with each side having less barriers when interacting.
“I have always been interested in foreign languages and think learning a different language is super helpful in future careers and just to be able to communicate with more people,” Fernandez said.
As a student at Cal Lutheran, I want our Asian language department to grow, not die out. Learning Mandarin is a beneficial challenge that gives you a differentiating skill in the workforce.