- Marquette recently began offering classes in Mandarin
- Marquette will begin offering classes in Arabic in fall 2009
- These courses will provide students with greater language options, students and professors say
With ever-strengthening western political, economic and social ties with China and the Middle East, colleges and universities throughout the United States are taking steps to include Mandarin and Arabic in their curricula.
Last semester, Marquette Student Government passed a recommendation to the university advising that Mandarin and Arabic be added to Marquette's language options, according to MUSG Legislative Vice President Abe Matthew.
Matthew, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said MUSG's recommendation stemmed from student feedback expressing a desire for the two languages to be offered.
"This was a student initiative," Matthew said. "But MUSG took it upon itself to make sure the administration heard what these students were saying."
Students raised the issue again at last week's "Born to be Wild" forum with University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild.
This semester, Marquette began offering two sections of Mandarin, according to Belen Castaneda, chair of the Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures.
Elementary Chinese is being taught this fall. In the spring, Intermediate Chinese and Chinese Culture and Civilization will be offered.
Castaneda said the university plans to offer elementary Arabic beginning in fall 2009.
Matthew said the university is still in the developmental phase for future Arabic courses.
"Right now they're just dealing with the logistics of finding faculty to create a viable program," Matthew said. "Obviously the sooner the better, but I would hope they do it in a way that's practical to find the best people for the job."
Castaneda said she believes providing a greater number of language options will be very beneficial for Marquette students.
"All languages and cultures are important in today's society," Castaneda said. "The more exposure and understanding that students have to other languages, literatures and cultures — the better citizens of the world they will be."
Matthew said Mandarin and Arabic classes are especially appealing to students pursuing majors in political science, international affairs or military science. He said he also believes adding these two languages to Marquette's curriculum may attract more students to the university.
"These are two very encompassing languages and are spoken by a huge segment of the global population," Matthew said. "These regions are becoming increasingly important in global affairs as well as here in the U.S. I think this could potentially attract a lot of students who are internationally oriented to Marquette."
John Kaplan, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arabic major, said he believes acquiring Arabic language skills will serve to his advantage in the future.
"The Middle East is a very lucrative area, and I can see in the future that our presence there will only increase," Kaplan said. "It's very important to learn about Arabic culture and language because we have a great deal of interaction with those countries. Arabic nations are a major part of international politics."
Vicky Salas, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she began learning Mandarin before coming to Marquette, but was unable to continue because Marquette did not offer Mandarin courses. Salas said she believes adding Mandarin and Arabic to Marquette's language options will benefit current students and also attract potential students to the university.
"There are a few people I know who want to major in Chinese or Arabic and want to go to Marquette, but because MU doesn't offer these languages they can't," Salas said. "By offering these classes, if there was interest they might be able to offer a major/minor, which would bring in a broader spectrum of students."