CSU, Chico News

Instruction in Chinese and Arabic Expanded

Date: 07-24-2008

Joe Wills
Public Affairs
Joel Zimbelman
College of Humanities and Fine Arts

Beginning with the fall 2008 semester, California State University, Chico will offer regularly scheduled courses in Chinese and Arabic taught by native speakers hired exclusively for the new program.

CSU, Chico has taught these and many other languages in a self-instructional/tutorial format for years, as well as a regular complement of courses in Japanese, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Hebrew. However, with the growing strategic and economic importance of the Middle East and China to the United States, the University sought to expand the teaching of these languages.

Starting this fall, the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures will offer first- and second-semester Arabic and similar courses in Chinese/Putongua (Mandarin), in addition to a conversational Chinese course.

“Establishing Chico programs in Chinese and Arabic has been something we wanted to do for quite awhile,” said Joel Zimbelman, interim dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, “but we have been hampered by the cost and the difficulty of finding adequately trained and experienced teachers.”

Zimbelman said that changed this year, when the campus received commitments totaling approximately $95,000 from the Chinese government and the Fulbright Commission to fund the positions over three years. The University is also contributing funds for the new courses, he said.

The grant from the People’s Republic of China will pay the major portion of a faculty position for three years, allowing the University to assess the next step in growing the program. Fulbright grants are for one year—but renewable—and Zimbelman anticipates that funding could continue for several years.

“The goal of offering these strategic languages is to provide our students with an initial and basic introduction to the language,” said Zimbelman. He said it’s expected that many students—including those with majors in the liberal arts disciplines as well as majors such as kinesiology, business, area studies, and education—will then take advantage of the various study abroad options available to them through the CSU system, the University Study Abroad Consortium (USAC, http://usac.unr.edu/usac/default.aspx), and other international programs offered by CSU, Chico. The University’s Study Abroad Web site.

CSU, Chico has entered into two partnerships with Chinese universities, with a third in the works this year, Zimbelman said, and there are plans to develop campus partners in the Middle East in the next year or two. “It’s a bit early to say whether or not we would offer a minor or major in these languages in the near future,” said Zimbelman, “but at the very least we want to provide students with the tools they might need to pursue other degree options. It’s up to them then to decide how to take the resource and make it work for their education.”

The course schedule for fall 2008 for all language classes is available at http://cypress.csuchico.edu/APO/classschedule/fa2008/ . Questions may be directed to the office of the Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts, 530-898-5351.