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Features. Chinese spoken here: Students learn where they live

Students immerse themselves in language and culture at Chinese House

by Nisha Ajmani ’02

Chow fan sizzles on the stove, and Chinese can be heard down the hallway.
The language is almost as common as English at Hinderlie Hall, where the new Chinese House is located.

“We try to use Chinese as much as possible in communication,” said James Kozak ’04, who returned from studying abroad in China last spring and lives in the house. “It’s a comfortable environment.”

The Chinese House is a pilot program for a proposed International Hall on campus. Ten students make their home there – eight are part of the Chinese studies program, one is a resident assistant and one is from China. Professor Jingzhen Li also has an office in the house.

According to Mike Sosulski, assistant professor of German who spearheaded the International Hall project for the language department, immersion in the target language is invaluable and provides the best retention.

Not everyone in the hall speaks at the same level. Some are just starting to learn the language and others are fluent. Regardless, residents have pledged to speak only Chinese in their study room – where they hang out, watch movies and do homework. Using the language in hallways and rooms is encouraged, but not mandatory.

The house is place for students to practice the language in a real way. Paul Manfredi, professor of Chinese, sees the potential for improvement in class. “I know they have a place they can practice Chinese – it serves the purpose in a fun way,” he said.

Sometimes, the fun is what it’s all about. “We’re all classmates, so we’re all friends,” said Kozak. Some of the residents have been to China together and have moved through the levels of Chinese with each other.

The house also serves as a place for students to prepare for studying abroad and as a transition point for students returning from overseas. It duplicates the Chinese experience as closely as possible – which also benefits students who don’t get the chance to study abroad.

Kristine Keun-Ah Chang ’06, an off-campus student working on her third language, said she goes there to practice her language skills. “It’s a great place to communicate in Chinese,” she said.

Students who aren’t part of the Chinese Studies program are always welcome as well, and Kozak said students from Chinese speaking countries visit frequently.

The Chinese House has integrated itself into Hinderlie without any problems. According to resident Kim Croft ’03, the wing often participates in hall events and other Hinderlie residents wander down to try to learn a little Chinese.

One of the house members’ responsibilities is to provide at least five campus wide programs a year – designed to increase knowledge of Chinese language and culture. The Chinese House raises awareness and promotes diversity through exposure. “Some people didn’t even know PLU offered Chinese,” Croft said. “If people know about it and get excited, houses will probably happen for other languages.”

The vision for the proposed International Hall, which would either be located in one residence hall or in wings across campus, is to have a house for each language taught at PLU and an English-speaking global/international studies wing.

“Everybody feels pretty good about how things are going,” said Tom Huelsbeck, director of Residential Life. “We’re actively exploring possibilities for an International Hall.”

Manfredi says an International Hall would make different programs more aware of each other. “I’m anxious to see it succeed.”

The plans for the hall are well under way, with a task force meeting once a week to aim for its opening in Fall 2004. “It’s just so exciting,” Huelsbeck said. “We have students who want to use where they live as a place to learn.”

Next Feature: Harry Potter flies into curriculum; class studies publishing phenomenon

Professor Li Jingzhen, left, Kristine Keun-Ah Chang '06, middle, and YeukHung Wu '06, prepare jiaozi in a Hinderlie kitchen for a Chinese House dinner in October.

Photo Credits

By: Andy Sprain ’06


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