Chinese lessons in the workplace

Updated: 2014-02-14 09:26

By YU WEI in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

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Employees at Oregon-based CollegeNET now have the opportunity to learn more about China by learning Chinese at the Confucius Institute at Portland State University (CIPSU).

"China has become one of the major markets for our company," said Jim Wolfston, president of CollegeNET. "I think our employees need to get a better understanding of China by learning Chinese."

Some 42 employees signed up for the 10 weeks of Mandarin language lessons offered by CIPSU, with classes held three times a week.

"Our employees are very busy during work, it is difficult for them to find time to attend a language class at the college," Wolfston said. "CIPSU agreed to provide on-site training with an instructor that travels to our company for a specified period of time, that's huge for us. We are very grateful."

CollegeNET, which develops web-based systems for higher education and nonprofit organizations including Stanford and Princeton, has been focusing heavily on the Chinese market because of the growing number of Chinese students in the US.

"One of our major businesses is the online application process. For instance, if a student decided to apply to Cornell graduate school, we are the ones who manage and process the forms and data on the university's behalf," Wolfston said. "As China continues to be the top source of international students on US campuses, more and more of the applications we process come from China.

"The general response to the Mandarin class is very positive," said Lan Jian, general manager of CollegeNET China. "However, Chinese is not easy to understand, let alone to master. I'm sure there will be a lot of follow-up effort to make."

Confucius Institutes are an initiative of China's central government that began in 2004 to promote Chinese language and culture, support Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchange. As of now, there are nearly 100 Confucius Institutes at American universities and colleges.

The 11th Confucius Institute to be established in the US, CIPSU was founded in 2007. The institute currently has 11 instructors, providing 30 different Chinese classes to people in the greater Portland area.

"We work hard to make sure that all programs are assessed and designed to meet the specific desires and needs of our students," said Liu Meiru, director of CIPSU. "The programs are exclusively tailored."

The courses provided by CIPSU, according to Liu, include oral Chinese, business Chinese and simultaneous interpretation. "We wish to promote a better understanding of Chinese culture and language by tailoring courses in the most effective way," she added.

In addition to the Mandarin classes, CIPSU is offering cultural related activities to the public such as tai chi. Liu said the idea is to promote Chinese culture as well as provide a low-key exercise for people who need a break from work or study.

Offering Mandrain courses to CollegeNET is the third time CIPSU has collaborated with a local company, having previously worked at Nike Headquarters in Portland and the Port of Portland employees in Chinese language and culture for the workplace.

"We hope to work with more local companies to meet their goals in the future," Liu said.

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