By Shannon Nelson
The Saint Mary’s University business department hopes to increase awareness and knowledge of the Chinese language with the introduction of the course “BU461: Seminar: Chinese and Business.”
Thomas Marpe, Ph.D., dean for the School of Business and chair of the business department, teaches students about the business environment in China. His assistant Chia-lin Chao, a graduate student, teaches basic Mandarin Chinese, emphasizing vocabulary words that would most likely be used in business, said Marpe.
Marpe describes the three-credit course as a business elective with no prerequisites that is open to all students. The course is based more on conversation and speaking rather than writing, and is designed for common-use Chinese. Chao provides a Chinese immersion experience for students during the class, and at the end of class reviews and discusses the next class in English.
The students are given vocabulary quizzes each week and practice lessons from a conversation book and DVD. Then they do a dialogue from memory in class, said student Santiago Escobar.
Marpe’s reason for the Chinese emphasis is that “it is an important language for business, but also an important language for all of us.” He has hopes that the course will position SMU for the future—a future containing strong business development in China.
Escobar is taking this course for just that reason. He said that China has recently passed Japan in economic standing, which declares it as the second largest economy in the world.
“As that continues, there’s going be a point that we’re going to have to deal more with China, even more than we do today,” Escobar said.
Rachel Luetmer, the only non-business major in the class, is also aware of China’s increasing power in business, but that is not the reason she is taking this course.
“I really like the language, and I think it’s fun to learn the culture,” she said.
Although Luetmer is taking the course because of her own interest, she realizes the practicality of the course. “It’s one of the biggest countries right now for our business,” said Luetmer. “I think it’s really important to know the language.”
Chao hopes students will use the words and sentences they learn in class so they can communicate with Chinese people, which Chao believes is the most important part. “This is why we learn languages,” said Chao, “to communicate.”