Learning Chinese can connect you to a wide variety of people, head of Chinese Language Program says

Two students in the Chinese Language Program: Hannah James and Andrea Azeltine. (Emily Eubank | Collegian Media Group) Photo credit: Emily Eubank

Li Yang grew up in China and first came to the US to pursue her doctorate degree. She got involved at Kansas State once she graduated and she needed to find a job. She said that other than the weather, she likes it here.

“[It’s] a really long story,” Yang said. “But, my major at the university was teaching Chinese to speakers of other languages. I think it’s a very cool experience. For America and other countries — being able to speak Chinese, going to other places where you cannot speak English and knowing how to help. Also, by knowing the language and people being able to understand you is very helpful.”

Now an associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages, Yang is also in charge of the Chinese Language Program.

Yang said she has attempted to see why more people haven’t tried to learn Chinese, and the most common answer is that it’s too difficult. Despite this, she gave a few reasons why students should learn Chinese. First, if you are interested in the culture, learning Chinese would be a great option for you.

“China has a long history … and there is a lot of different cultures, even within the country,” Yang said. “We have different minorities; different ethnic groups and they have their own customs and cultures within.”

Next, Yang noted ideas around memorization.

“When you get older, [you] have more of a chance of memory loss,” Yang said. “If you learn a second language it reduces the risk of developing memory problems later down the road.”

A member of the program, Hannah James, junior in secondary education and English, also noted this idea.

“I think it’s good for keeping your mind sharp, because it requires that kind of dedication and study,” James said. “I also think it’s a beautiful language with a lot of history. It’s really rewarding once you get the hang of it. It also gives you access to so many people”

Third, China is such a large country, representing one-fifth of the world’s population.

Andrea Azeltine, junior in accounting, is currently enrolled in both Chinese 5 and a one-on-one Chinese 6 class. In her first Chinese class, the first four weeks of the program only focused on pronunciations. She said this really helped her, noting that her dad took a trip to Taiwan and tried to make flashcards to learn the words, and he couldn’t figure out the phonetics.

“The program at K-State sets you up for success from day one, so it’s much easier than learning on your own with flashcards,” Azeltine said.