Mercer University recently received a grant sponsored by the United States Department of Education that will allow for the founding of a new program for an Asian Studies minor.
The program will be housed in the Interdisciplinary Studies department. A team of 12 Mercer faculty members will develop the coursework for the new minor over the next three years.
While the overall program will seek to give students a better understanding of Asian culture, the anchor of the new program will be the Chinese language program.
The grant will allow for the addition of a second year of Chinese language that will be available to students next fall.
“Traditional Western European languages are the only languages that have been predominantly taught at Mercer thus far. But last year, we had a visiting professor from China who began teaching a 100-level Chinese language course,” said Dr. Leona Kanter.
“Chinese was first taught here several years ago, but it was dropped for technical and qualification reasons. As of now, we officially had Chinese a year ago but a second year and a study abroad program have been added this year,” Kanter said.
This will provide Mercer students with both 100-level and 200-level Chinese courses. This will be the first time that Mercer will have a complete program.
“The importance of the language is to bring greater recognition to globalization. We are very oriented to the East and this will be very important to people now and in the future, because we are doing business with China and we will continue to do so,” Kanter said.
“These new Chinese language courses will support a diversified group of students. Medical students and students from the business school could benefit from the language courses,” said Miao Marone, the Chinese language professor.
“Having some experience of the language will look great on resumes. If you have these languages skills it will be beneficial in the larger business world,” Marone said.
“This will be opening up a much wider window on the world and the bits and pieces of Chinese culture that have become embedded in American culture now,” Kanter said.
There were about 20 students in Marone’s 111 Chinese class, with about 11 of those students continuing on with Chinese 112.
“But next year we will be able to teach 111 and the first 200-level class at the same time in the fall. We will also have a four-week study abroad program in China this summer, which is a great opportunity,” Marone said.
“The 200-level course will enlarge on the basics taught in the 111 and 112 courses and the students will learn many more Chinese characters,” Marone said.
In 111, students learn greetings and numbers as well as ways to describe shopping trips and traveling. They must learn not only to speak the language but must also learn how to read the characters and the tones in the language.
“The second year will focus a lot more on pronunciation. I want the students to sound polished and familiar. Students can quickly pick it up,” Marone said.
“In China people will be very accepting of you even if you know just a little Chinese. Even a little can have a huge impact on your life. It can be very important to today’s economy,” Marone added.
Marone is the only faculty member teaching Chinese currently. She was raised in China and while working in Beijing met her husband, a Mercer physics professor, Matt Marone.
The Marones came back to the states, where Mrs. Marone was hired by Mercer to teach Chinese for the first time but let go when Mercer decided to discontinue the Chinese language courses.
This fall will be Mrs. Marone’s first year restarting at Mercer.
“I taught English in China and it always came natural to me, so when the opportunity to teach Chinese at Mercer opened up I thought it would be a good place for me,” Marone said.
“In some of my classes I speak 90 percent Chinese and all of my students can follow me easily. It is very exciting for me to see the progress in my students in such a small time,” Marone said. “There is always someone following me after class with questions and that is what makes teaching worth it.”