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.”
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