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Students thriving in Chinese language and culture classes

By Alison Wagener 

Victoria Dylla's ongoing interest in Asian culture motivated her to enroll in a Chinese language class at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

It didn't take long for the freshman English education major to fall in love with the Chinese language, nor to realize how much more connected she feels to Chinese culture now that she's learning the language. 

While learning a new language is personally satisfying, Dylla says she also knows her Chinese language skills will help her stand out once she enters the job market. 

"I believe that someone with a background in the Chinese language will be an invaluable asset to employers," Dylla said. "China is a global economic power today, and they are still growing. Large companies want to integrate into China, and someone with experience in the language will be more competitive for these jobs.

"Many people around the globe know two or even three languages. To compete with them, UW-Eau Claire students should take advantage of the language courses available to them on this campus."

Dylla says many students find that the Chinese language's grammar and sentence patterns are simpler than those of English and other languages like Spanish and French. Although its characters may seem intimidating to native speakers of English, they are surprisingly easy to learn, she says.

Student interest in learning the Chinese language has been steadily increasing, says Dr. Kaishan Kong, UW-Eau Claire's first tenure-track professor of Chinese language and culture. The campus is responding by creating more opportunities and resources for students with those interests, she says. 

"This campus sees the importance of the Chinese language and makes great efforts to build the program," Kong says, noting that the creation of her position is an example of the university's investment. "I receive tremendous support from various sources to build the Chinese program at UW-Eau Claire, and as we offer more and more opportunities for students, the interest continues to increase."

For the first time, the university sent a team of students to participate in the Wisconsin Chinese Speech Contest this spring in southern Wisconsin.  

Five students from Kong's introductory Chinese class competed in the Wisconsin Association of Chinese Teachers' annual event. More than 140 students from kindergarten through college-level participated in the competition, the biggest of its kind in the state. Several other UW campuses also sent teams. 

UW-Eau Claire's team included Ryan Bleau, an undeclared junior from Bloomington, Minnesota; Victoria Dylla, a freshman English education major from Rochester, Minnesota; Katherine Kocen, a freshman Spanish major from West Allis; Michelle Purdun, a junior psychology major from Antigo; and Youa Xiong, a sophomore English education major from Kaukauna

In the competition, UW-Eau Claire students earned multiple honors in different competition categories. "We all did well, and we all proved to ourselves that we have accumulated a lot of skills over the last six months," Dylla says." We all work hard, so seeing the results of that work tangibly manifested in a medal was an incredibly rewarding experience."