- Associated Press - Sunday, October 11, 2015

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) - Canada aside, census bureau data shows that China is the biggest trade partner of the United States, and the place where most of the nation’s imports come from.

That’s the reason many Americans want to learn Chinese.

Mandarin courses are just one part of the Confucius Institute at Northern State University, but learning language and culture is a big part of visiting and doing business in China.

That’s something the Confucius Institute and its courses can offer, said director Naomi Ludeman Smith.

“It’s not a blank slate of ‘I don’t know anything,’ or it’s based on stereotypes,” she said. “Instead, it’s based on knowledge and first-hand experience, and it’s coming here.”

This semester, only one face-to-face Chinese language course is offered at Northern, Mandarin 101. There are 21 students enrolled, two of whom are high school students taking the course through the dual-enrollment program, the Aberdeen American News (https://bit.ly/1OmfiKq ) reported.

After this semester, course offerings will grow to include face-to-face Chinese 102 and online college courses, Ludeman Smith said.

“When that online course at the university level - when that goes out, we’ll see where those students are actually coming from,” she said. “They can be from across the world. All they have to do is apply to NSU for our online courses and be accepted.”

Beginning next year, sophomore-level Chinese courses will start at Northern, and the Confucius Institute is working to bring over a teacher with a high school visa to teach a course through the Center for Statewide E-Learning, Ludeman Smith said. That’s a different classification than what is needed to for college professors.

A big reason Northern was selected for the Confucius Institute was because it houses the Center for Statewide E-Learning, Ludeman Smith said.

After students complete Mandarin 101, they will be eligible to travel to China through a partnership with the University of Jinan, Northern’s Confucius Institute partner, Ludeman Smith said. Students taking the courses through the dual-credit program will be eligible for the trip as well, as long as they’re at least 16 years old.

Language and culture learning aren’t the only purposes for the Confucius Institute, Ludeman Smith said. There’s going to be a Chinese cultural center in the Beulah Williams Library, and the institute will host a handful of events throughout the year similar to the Three Tours Performance Troupe that visited at the end of September.

The center is also a way to make business connections, Ludeman Smith said.

“We’ve even had an entrepreneur contact us, saying, ‘I’m looking for a manufacturer in China to manufacture my invention,’” Ludeman Smith said. “And I put him (in contact with) our visiting scholar.”


Information from: Aberdeen American News, https://www.aberdeennews.com

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