The student newspaper of Nicholls State University

Twenty needed to establish new Chinese course on campus

March 16, 2017

Nicholls students could get an advantage in the competitive job market by learning skills offered in a potential new Chinese course.

Nicholls is working to partner with Xavier University Confucius Institute to provide an introductory Mandarin Chinese course that would be offered this Fall.

At least 20 students must sign up before early summer for the school to arrange to have an instructor.

The Confucius Institute promotes Chinese language and culture, and facilitates cultural exchanges.

The institute is sponsored by an organization called Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council International that works to affiliate with different colleges and universities around the world.

Rya Butterfield, assistant professor of speech, tried to get this course at Nicholls in 2014, but there was not enough student interest.

Butterfield explained how there is a big need for the skills learned in this class because of the growth of Chinese tourism in New Orleans, and the fact that Houma recently became the first city in Louisiana to have a sister port city in China.

“When you make a sister city, you are attaching the business interests between these two cities between one another before anywhere else,” Butterfield said.

One of Nicholls missions is to provide the right workforce for this region.

Regionally, there are many fish packing companies and distributors that are working directly with China, a big market for seafood from Louisiana.

Butterfield explained how this course would be beneficial to students who want to work in New Orleans because Chinese Tourists are projected to be the largest growing group in New Orleans’ tourism forecast.  Numbers are expected to increase for both pleasure and medical tourism.

“Our nursing students and culinary students are going to face Chinese cross cultural situations if they are working in New Orleans,” Butterfield said.  “Employers in New Orleans are really starting to realize this also, so they will be looking for people with these skills.”

John Allen Williams, director of the Hospitality Research Center, recently reported that growth in Chinese tourism is likely to play a big part in the demand for about 18,000 more employees in hospitality over the next few years.

Butterfield said that Nicholls students who take this course would be given a huge competitive advantage because a lot of the bigger schools in the region are not necessarily teaching their students these skills yet either.

Once Nicholls teaches a Confucius Institute course, the university becomes a Confucius Institute school.  This means that any of the cultural performances that go to Xavier University, would also come to Nicholls free of charge as long as the facility is provided.

“Confucius institutes have had a mixed reception in the United States because on one hand it is the Chinese government looking to extend favorable opinion of China,” Butterfield said.  “But on the other hand, they are offering free access to some of the most valuable skills, like language and access to cultural performances.”

According to Butterfield, most concerns with the program have to do with how the Chinese government could push historical propaganda in the way of inaccurate history.

“We do not want to teach American students bad history from the Chinese government,” Butterfield said.  “However, if we approach this with eyes open, it is a way for us to get free Chinese instruction to our students at a time that we are really strapped for cash and can use it.”

The university gets to choose what materials they would want to teach in their classes.  Also, the instructor would be a highly trained native language speaker.

The Hanban organization said that once a student completes a Confucius institute class, Hanban would pay for the student’s movement within China if they choose to study abroad.

Nicholls could potentially provide free study abroad trips for students with internship opportunities, which often lead to job placement.

If enough students show interest, the course will be offered as a three-credit general education humanities course.

It would establish a foundation of listening, speaking, writing and reading skills.

To get more information about the course or to register, contact Rya Butterfield at rya.butterfield@nicholls.edu.

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