Chinese, Japanese languages growing in popularity on campus

Lorenzo Lepori, Channels Staff

The East Asian languages are gaining popularity among City College students interested in learning about a new culture and in increasing their future business opportunities.

“About 10 years ago, two of us were teaching Japanese,” Yachiyo Roberts, Japanese instructor said. “Now, they have increased that number to four.”

Roberts said that many students are not only interested in learning the Japanese language but they are also interested in the Japanese culture. In addition to computer science students the Japanese classes have become popular among communication and arts majors.

“Most Japanese students are computer science majors,” Roberts said. “I did a lecture, half in Japanese and half in English, about the Japanese culture to my students. I found out that two of them were interested in classic Japanese literature. That amazed me.”

In the 2007 fall semester, four Japanese classes were made available to City College students. The school of modern languages department offers students a total of eight Japanese classes, which include six beginning Japanese classes and two intermediate Japanese classes.

Although Chinese classes are not as common, the subject itself is attracting a wide variety of students.

“More people want to learn Chinese because of the world’s economy,” City College Chinese instructor Mandy Hsieh said. “We get older people too. They are working already, but they need to take the class because of that.

“I think it has become important to learn Chinese because many countries’ economy depends on China.”

Hsieh said a majority of her students are either economy or global studies majors as a mirror of the world’s present economic situation.

According to an article published by the Guardian, China is expected to become the world’s largest economy by 2018 ahead of the United States.

“Some of my students have come to take this class because they think Chinese is spoken by the most people worldwide. Chinese is especially important for students who want to work in business fields,” said Hsieh.

Over the past years China has relied on its exports as well as its manufacturing sectors to encourage its economic growth. According to BBC News, despite the financial crisis, China’s economic growth is showing a 7.8 percent rise for the July-to-September period. The United States shows a 2.5 percent growth for the same time.

“Chinese is a very difficult language,” Hsieh said. “It is hard to encourage students to sign up for these classes.”

Although East Asian languages are gaining in popularity among students, it is not the most popular language taught at City College. The most popular languages on campus are Spanish, American Sign Language and Japanese, in that order.

In order to respond to students growing interest in Japanese, the school of modern language department asked the Academic Senate about the possibility of hiring a new Japanese instructor. The request was voted on and rejected by the senate.