Chinese Challenge: program expects competition
October 28, 2009 1:29 PM
SF State's college of humanities is preparing to formally launch the new Chinese Flagship Partner Program, the first of its kind in California, with an informational meeting and open application process on Nov. 5
Associate Professor of Chinese studies Charles Egan said the new program will "take a select group of highly motivated students who are willing to put a lot of time into learning language and push them up to the point where they're comfortable working in a professional capacity in a Chinese speaking environment."
The program, funded through the National Security Education Program, will provide participating students, pursuing diverse majors, with monetary support for study abroad, tailored courses, faculty mentors and conversation partners.
"Having the individualized study plans, a mentor, networking and making connections, that's huge - to have something so set, where once you get in you can just ride it through," program coordinator Katie Walsh said.
The program is ironing out some first-year details but, by spring, Egan hopes it will consists of two groups of students. A core group, made up of about 10 intermediate-to-advanced students, will receive the majority of the scholarship support for study abroad.
The other, preparatory group, with as many as 15 students, will receive the same educational assistance and smaller monetary support as they work towards joining the more advanced students.
Entrance to the program is expected to be competitive, by application only and a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher is required.
"We'll be looking for a real range of students," Egan, who also serves as Director of the Flagship program, said. "What we want is there to be multiple entry points. If students know about this and they start preparing early then they can work their way through."
There are currently over 15 students taking prep classes and practicing with conversation partners in hopes of gaining acceptance to the program. Egan recruited Mandarin speakers from the student body and paired them with a prep student.
"The Flagship Preparation courses are designed to stretch the capacities of motivated and dedicated students, to help them quickly increase their language proficiency levels, in order to prepare for application to the core Flagship Program," said prep class lecturer Josephine Tsao.
Last summer, SF State sent freshman Erica Zamora to Indiana University Bloomington for eight weeks of intensive Chinese language study.
"I'm just very thankful to SF State for sending me to Indiana," Zamora, 18, said. "I guess that's the perks of flagship."
After returning from Indiana Egan set her up with a Mandarin conversation partner.
Zamora, an international business major, spoke no Chinese before going to Indiana. Now she can carry on an hour-long conversation with her tutor, Yan Fang He, using very little English and with limited interruptions for clarification.
"When I don't understand something she is saying, she'll write it in pinyin (English characters) and Chinese characters," Zamora said.
The two girls get together twice a week and talk about whatever they want. But Zamora said most conversations are about Chinese culture and how it differs from the US.
The Language Flagship started in 2000 with a few universities trying to create advanced language education programs for post-baccalaureate students. The undergraduate Flagship programs were introduced in 2006.
There are now 23 programs at American universities, 11 overseas and three K-12 programs.
The Language Flagship's Web site says it "seeks to graduate students who will take their place among the next generation of global professionals, commanding a superior level of proficiency in one of many languages critical to U.S. competitiveness and security."
Egan said there is still a lot of planning to do.
"The plan at the moment is to get them accepted and then start in the spring with a content course and a language course," Egan said. "They'll do six units in the flagship in the spring, and then we'll take it from there."
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