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12/22/2009 —

Aloha! Shalom! Asslam alykom! Hola! Goedendag! Translation: "Hello!" in Hawaiian, Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish and Dutch, respectively. At Penn State Brandywine, one of the most diverse campuses in the Penn State University system, students will learn yet another way to greet one another: Nǐ hǎo, which means "Hello" in Mandarin Chinese.

The campus' new Beginning Chinese (Chinese 001) course, offered on Saturdays beginning on January 16, requires no prior knowledge of the language and aims at providing a rudimentary understanding of the Chinese pinyin system, the writing system, grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure.

Because this is a beginning language course, approximately 90 percent of class time will be spent on language acquisition and the remaining 10 percent on Chinese culture.

Chinese 001 is designed to bring students substantially closer to meeting the rating of "Novice-Advanced" in listening, speaking, writing and reading on a scale formulated by a professional language teaching organization. To achieve this goal, the campus will employ a multiple-skill approach and the immersion method in this multimedia-enhanced course.

After trying to learn Mandarin Chinese on his own, senior communications major Teron Meyers is excited for a chance to learn the language in a more structured environment.

"I have the software to learn Mandarin but it was hard to keep up with," he said. "The course will provide some discipline so that I actually have to complete the work." And it doesn't hurt that Meyers will receive credits toward his spring 2010 graduation. "It’s exciting because I won't get this opportunity anywhere else and also be able to get credits."

Approximately one quarter of the world’s population speaks Mandarin Chinese, known as Guoyu, Putonghua or Hanyu. It is the lingua franca of “Cultural China”—China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Chinese communities around the world.

That's exactly why Meyers wants to learn it. A resident of Upper Darby, he said he has watched the Asian population grow tremendously in the area and has quite a few friends who speak the language. "I have had a lot of experience with the Chinese culture," he said of having a number of friends with Chinese roots. "I hear them speak it and I want to be able to talk to them" in their language. 

"Plus I love languages," he said. Meyers dabbles in French and Italian, of which he learned bits and pieces in preparation for a trip to Italy with the campus Study Abroad Program in January 2008. But he admits, Mandarin Chinese is "going to be a bit more difficult than the Romance languages."

Chinese 001 fulfills the language requirements of all bachelor of arts, business, information science and some science programs. It also counts toward the Chinese minor requirements. (http://complit.la.psu.edu/chinese/courses-chns001.shtml )

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