Learn a Foreign Language at TAMIU This Spring

Learn a Foreign Language
at TAMIU this Spring

Last week, President Bush announced he would ask Congress for $114 million to teach languages critical for national security to students from kindergarten through college in his budget for the 2007 fiscal year. Chinese and Japanese language programs are opening across the country.  News stories are reporting that there is evidence that learning another language may help people retain their mental sharpness. Texas A&M International University’s International Language Institute is addressing the demand for foreign language classes by offering Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Italian, and Spanish classes. Classes start January 17.

“The world is becoming smaller and I thought that by learning Mandarin Chinese, I would have more opportunities open to me,” said recent TAMIU graduate Karla Zarate.

“But I also took it for fun. I thought it was very different and interesting. It turned out that it wasn’t very easy to learn, but it was worth it,” she added.

“We’ve been offering Japanese classes since fall 2004 and Mandarin Chinese since spring 2005. The Japanese classes in particular have taken off and students really do learn to communicate,” said Lola Orellano Norris, ILI director.

With today’s global economy and Eastern cultural influences around, the University’s ILI classes help Laredoans understand Eastern cultural elements and languages that have penetrated everyday lives.

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language worldwide. Sushi and Chinese food are sold alongside tacos. Asian design, gardening and Feng Shui influence fashion and interior design. Americans have been practicing Chinese and Japanese martial arts for years. Stylized futuristic comic books called manga are very popular and along with Japanese movie and television animation, called anime, have entered the American culture.

“I was interested in the Mandarin class because I teach martial arts and I wanted to learn more about the culture and especially Asian philosophy. I learned the basics on how to communicate in China and a little bit of writing. So if I visit, I won’t be completely lost,” explained Felipe de Jesus Pantoja, also a TAMIU graduate.

“Japanese and Mandarin Chinese are the languages of the future. China is opening up politically and economically. Laredo even has a sister city in China. We have a lot of companies that do business with China, so it’s important to know the culture and to how interact with business partners. But it’s not just for business or job opportunities. A great deal of the newest technology originates in China and Japan. For tourists, China and Japan are particularly attractive. Both are ancient cultures that have been in existence for thousands of years,” acknowledged Norris.

“In the past 15 years, language programs have been established all over the country that teach languages that are considered strategic and of national importance and necessary for career development in a global economy. Americans need to be trained to be bilingual or multilingual. For example, two-thirds of the translating jobs at the U.S. Department of State are held by foreign-born individuals,” added Norris.

Students who take the language classes learn to communicate in that particular language from the get go. The courses are not abstract; they are very interactive and initially students learn everyday expressions and basic conversation. Students also learn about the cultures and rules of conduct so they know what to say to whom and when. Both the Japanese and Mandarin Chinese classes are taught by native-born speakers.

Kai Yang, who teaches Mandarin Chinese, has lived in Asia, Latin America and North America. He said these experiences have given him first hand opportunities to observe and interact with people who taught him and shared with him their cultures, history and languages. “Until our people learn more about the Chinese, we have placed ourselves at a disadvantage,” he explained.

One of the most popular classes is taught by native-Japanese speaker, Sugako Yoshimura Stone who is also completely fluent in English, making it possible for students to ask questions and receive clear and precise language instruction in Japanese. She is a certified teacher of Japanese calligraphy, origami, flower arranging and Kimono instruction.

“At first, these may not look like assets to language instruction. However, it has always been my experience that any language must be taught with a thorough understanding of the culture. These extra certifications mean that I am well versed in all aspects of Japanese culture,” Stone noted.

“Another thing that people don’t know is that speaking Spanish helps with the pronunciation of Japanese. When you study a foreign language, you also learn about that country’s culture and become more aware of your own language and culture,” said Norris.

All foreign language classes start Jan. 17 and conclude May 12. Beginning Mandarin Chinese I meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. Beginning Japanese I meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 – 7:15 p.m. Beginning Japanese II also meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, but from 7:30 – 8:45 p.m.

Beginning Arabic I meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 6 – 7:15 p.m.

Beginning Italian I meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 – 7:15 p.m.

Two Spanish I classes are available. One class meets every Monday and Wednesday from 1 – 2:15 p.m. and the other also meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 6 – 7:15 p.m. Beginning Spanish II classes meet every Tuesday and Thursday from 1 – 2:15 p.m. Evening classes are also available Mondays and Wednesdays, 7:30 – 8:15 p.m. Intermediate Spanish I meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12 – 1:15 p.m.

University admission is not required and those who complete the courses will receive continuing education credits.

Tuition is $368 per course.

For more information, please contact the International Language Institute at 326.2721, e-mail ili@tamiu.edu or visit offices in Pellegrino Hall, room 302.

University office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The University will be closed and classes suspended on Monday, Jan. 16 in a State-authorized observance of Martin Luther King Day. Offices reopen and classes resume on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu