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New courses in Chinese and Portuguese reflect a changing global balance

In a world where emerging powers such as China and Brazil play an increasingly important role in the global economy, Western is providing students with the opportunity to gain an introduction to the languages and cultural heritage of these influential nations. The WCSU department of world languages and literature now offers an introductory course sequence in Chinese, as well as two Portuguese sequences at the introductory and intermediate levels.

Department Chair and Associate Professor of World Languages and Literature Dr. Galina Bakhtiarova observed that inclusion of these sequences in the WCSU curriculum recognizes the need to raise awareness of Chinese- and Portuguese-speaking nations’ significance in the world’s future economic and cultural development. “Our objective when we teach introductory language courses at WestConn is to enable our students to communicate effectively in the target-language environment,” Bakhtiarova explained. “In all our language classes, we incorporate listening, speaking, teaching and writing skills, and we also provide a very strong cultural element.”

Enrollment in the intermediate-level sequence of the Portuguese curriculum filled quickly due to strong demand from students of Portuguese and Brazilian heritage, reflecting the large representation of these ethnic groups in the Greater Danbury community. In contrast to the two-semester introductory sequences that assume no prior exposure to the language studied, the Portuguese for Heritage Speakers curriculum will be designed specifically for students whose families continue to speak Portuguese at home.

The instructor for both the introductory and intermediate Portuguese sequences will be Dr. Jordano Quaglia, who has taught Portuguese language courses at all levels during his extensive teaching experience at the State University of New York at Albany, Fairfield University and Yale University. Quaglia said the courses at WCSU will emphasize knowledge of Brazilian and Continental Portuguese reinforced by immersion in the language, culture and civilization of peoples of Portuguese heritage.

Instructor Yu Lian offered the two-semester introductory course in Chinese for the first time during the 2009-10 academic year. A native of Beijing who immigrated to the United States in 2001, Lian earned a master’s degree in education at Columbia University and has taught at the Huaxia Chinese School, which offers a weekend program of language and cultural enrichment classes on the Midtown campus for children and teens of Chinese heritage. She holds teaching certification in Connecticut and has been a full-time teacher at a Bridgeport high school for the past two years.

Lian expressed pride in her students’ enthusiasm for learning the language and culture of her native China. She makes a point of taking the educational experience beyond the classroom by planning class participation in special cultural activities to learn more about Chinese arts, history, sports and cuisine, as well as a traditional celebration of the Chinese New Year. “Every day, when a student leaves my class, I want to know that he or she has learned something new about China,” Lian said. “If I can share my enthusiasm with them and get them excited to know more about Chinese language and culture, then they will become motivated to continue learning Chinese after they leave my class.”

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Students are exposed to Chinese food, culture, writing and games at an event sponsored by the Chinese Club.