Confucius Institute is now offering Chinese language courses

Language courses at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville have always been highly diverse, but until nearly six years ago, they did not offer options outside of the Latin alphabet.

The recent change has been long overdue and did not occur until after the establishment of the Confucius Institute in 2008.

“It’s only proper that UW-Platteville has a program like that,” Confucius Institute Director Mei Reeder said. “We already have Spanish, French and German programs, and the addition of the Chinese language only benefits students.”

The Confucius Institute offers many opportunities to students, faculty and the community, and all are made possible because of a partnership between UW-Platteville and South Central University for Nationalities in Wuhan, China, which began eight years before the establishment of the institute itself.

UW-Platteville students are now able to learn Chinese and Mandarin through six one-day-per-week courses in three different levels of language learning.

“The next sessions of daytime classes, Basic Mandarin A, B and C, begin after spring break,” Kathy Zhang, a Confucius Institute professor, said.

These courses do not offer credits, but they allow students to get a first-hand experience with the language before fully dedicating to the courses and paying for the credits, Zhang said.

According to Reeder, students may also have the opportunity to take semester-long Chinese I and II courses for credit through the College of Liberal Arts and Education.

“Lots of students don’t know about China, and it’s our point to spread the Chinese language and culture,” Reeder said.

In addition to the language courses, the Confucius Institute offers digital classrooms in the form of kiosks in three locations on campus: Ullsvik Hall, the Markee Pioneer Student Center and the Karrmann Library.

The touch screen kiosks are available for all to use.

They offer cultural information and practice with the language through hearing the sounds of Chinese instruments and accessing information on folk arts, to learning geographical information and translations.

The CI’s mission is not simply to spread knowledge of the Chinese language and culture on campus; it also focuses on outreach, not only in the community but also to the world.

“The Confucius Institute also offers scholarships for students to go to China,” Zhang said. “The scholarship covers all expenses, but it doesn’t offer credits.”

Outside of its offices in Royce Hall, the CI’s outreach programs target students, faculty and community members, allowing for enhanced linguistic and cultural understanding.

Free programs, such as Chinese Table and Lunch and Learn, allow attendees to learn about the Chinese people and understand a few words or phrases.

“We try to provide lots of free programs for the campus and the community, including a free campus series for students,” Reeder said.

The Spring 2014 Confucius Institute Campus Series begins on March 10 with Chinese Bonsai.

A variety of sessions are offered throughout the semester and all events run from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in room 110 of Royce Hall.

Cultural sessions are offered for a small, student-budget-friendly $5 fee and includes Chinese cooking classes, tai chi instruction, majiang (mahjong) game tutorials, jewelry making and painting.

“The point for the Southwest Wisconsin area is to be able to benefit from the knowledge of another culture, and to know about CI and the resources we can provide,” Reeder said.