What our students have to say about Chinese and Japanese language study


A. J. Omartian '16

Taking Chinese to the Next Level

"After having spent almost 4 months at the ACC (Associated Colleges in China) program in Beijing, I can say without a doubt that my Chinese has improved by leaps and bounds. My reading comprehension of Chinese newspaper and articles has improved dramatically, and I am now more comfortable with holding a conversation with a native speaker. Improving my Chinese was the best part about ACC Beijing, but there were so many more amazing moments.

ACC Beijing is an intensive language and culture program located at Minzu University in Beijing. While studying there, I took four classes from Monday to Thursday that covered a wide variety of contemporary Chinese subjects, from the “one child” policy to Beijing air pollution. Every Friday we had a test on the content we had covered the previous 4 days. My first class each day was a large-group class that met at 8 a.m. and included a 10-minute dictation after which students were called on to use sentence patterns to describe the lesson we had read about the night before. At 9 a.m. we broke into smaller classes of four students in which we were called on to use both vocabulary and sentence patterns from the night before to answer questions that the teacher asks. At 10 a.m., we would break into even smaller classes of about 2-3 people. This class was discussion-based in which we would use the sentence patterns and vocabulary to talk about a prepared topic. The very last class of the day was a one-on-one with a teacher in which we were expected to implement vocabulary and grammar to talk about either the text content or something we were interested in. I personally found that the one-on-one class, or “???” was the most helpful because I wasn’t restricted to talking about the content from the night before but could converse with my teacher about my particular interests. The final segment of the semester at ACC was an independent report project, in which students selected a topic to research and then, with the help of a teacher, wrote a research paper, made a presentation and then presented it to other ACC classmates, teachers, and Beijing locals.

In addition to academic classes and the independent project, students at ACC also get paired with either one or two language partner(s), most of whom are students from Minzu University who help you with your Chinese as well as show you around both the college and the local Haidian district. I was also assigned a host family, with whom I had meals on the weekends and who showed me around Beijing.

The college where ACC is located, Minzu University, is an ethnic minority university located in the Haidian district. The actual ACC building is located just inside the East gate of the college. Going out of the west gate leads to a stretch of road with a bunch of restaurants and little side shops. The campus also has its own supermarket, and there’s another one pretty close to the west gate. Outside of the east gate, you can reach the bus and subway lines, which take you to other areas in the Haidian district. For anyone looking for a gym, a 10 minute walk from the east gate will lead you to a modern western style gym, where ACC students receive discounted prices.

A typical weekday for me involved waking up at 7:30 a.m. to review my vocabulary for the daily dictation. Then we would have class until 12 p.m., at which time a few friends and I would go to one of the restaurants outside of the west gate. After that, I usually went to the gym. The rest of the day for me was pretty much devoted to studying, as we had as many as 100 new vocabulary words that we would have to memorize for the dictation the following day. Weekends were much more relaxed and I often would visit my host family and they would take me to places around Beijing that I had not seen before, such as the National Aquatics Center and the White Cloud Temple. In addition to these activities, ACC also organized weekend activities to get us immersed in the local culture. For example, one night we went to the Peking Opera.

After graduation, I plan to return to China to continue learning the language to become as fluent as I can. As a computer science major and East Asian studies minor, I intend to pursue a career in cybersecurity, combining my computer science skills with my knowledge of Chinese.

Overall, ACC was a great program for me not only to improve my Chinese, but also to immerse myself in contemporary Chinese culture. Through the multitude of topics in class, the great teachers, my host family, and my language partners, I have gained much more confidence in speaking and writing the Chinese language, and developed a much deeper understanding of Chinese culture. I would recommend this program to anyone looking to take their Chinese to the next level."

Libby Maret '12

"Coming to Connecticut College, I had a dream of combining my interest in physics and my love for the Japanese language. And I thought this dream would only remain in its nascent stages, as a fantasy unable to grow into reality. But grow it did. In my sophomore year I was able to organize an independent study with Professor Harb to study technical Japanese language. Together we read texts explaining physics concepts and watched videos interviewing Japanese physicists and I gained a sense for how to communicate physics in Japanese. But my attempts to combine my two interests have yet to reach a climax. I may have graduated, but in the fall I will be traveling to Japan to spend a year studying ultrafast physics at Tsukuba University under a Fulbright Research Fellowship. Accepting the Fulbright actually came as a challenge because I was also accepted to study applied physics at the University of Michigan, but my professors, advisers and peers at Conn, particularly in the East Asian Studies department, helped me to accept both positions by deferring my acceptance to Michigan for a year. What the future holds for me in Japan and at Michigan I don't yet know, but I am looking forward to it with a great sense of adventure and excitement."

Lauren Burke '06

"Chinese is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world today yet it is one that very few Americans are able to speak. Sure, Chinese might be a harder language to learn than non-character ones like French or Spanish, but it only makes it that much more rewarding when you are able to speak Chinese at home, or abroad. Thousands of doors open up for you when you have studied it and, you will find, that so much of the world is connected to China and its people in ways you never even imagined! Just make sure you know what to say when people ask you to speak in Chinese, and you'll get it almost every day."

David Simpson '04

"Traveling to Japan as a high school student at Saint Johnsbury Academy (Vt.) and again in college through the Associated Kyoto Program, I am becoming much more able in my understanding of what Japan 'really is' through mastery of the language. An obsession of something Japanese certainly doesn't hurt to have in studying the language, and nobody at Conn loves Nintendo more than me! Kanji will drive even native Japanese nuts, 'rareru' and 'saseru' will remain a mystery, but once someone grasps Japanese or dreams in Japanese for the first time, it is the wildest experience. Studying Japanese and Japan is a superior mental challenge, for no other country has more critics arguing over it in terms of culture, language pedagogy and 'wareware nihonjin' - but who really wants to study something where everything is already figured out? Studying Japanese has helped to define me as myself, and it doesn't hurt that on the resume I send to Nintendo I'll have 'Japanese study: 8 years.'"

Jennifer Ryan '03

"Since embarking upon the study of Chinese language and culture more than two years ago, what I have learned and experienced both here at Connecticut College as well as abroad has profoundly influenced the direction of my life, both academically and in my future professional career. With the knowledge and skills I have gained in the past few years, my education has been and will prove to be of utmost value. I am now in an advantageous position to work either domestically or internationally, which vastly enhances the possibilities for my future."

Mike Alford '03

"While I was in China I not only began to truly understand Chinese culture for the first time, but I also truly began to understand my own culture for the first time. Again, the key to all of this was having the ability to speak Chinese. This was made painfully apparent on one of my last nights in China. While sitting in a restaurant, another expatriate was sitting at a table across from me expounding on all he knew about China and Chinese culture… yet most of the conclusions he drew were completely wrong. It was not that his arguments lacked logic or evidence, it was just simply because he did not speak the language and therefore had no way of really interacting and understanding the culture. I realized had I just been a normal government major without any ability to speak Chinese, I would have been that guy sitting across from me."