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Teaching in Mandarin and English

Starting college is intimidating enough for the traditional freshman. Add to that a language barrier and the pressure of living far from home, and the challenges faced by first-year international students can be doubly hard.

Addressing this issue is a pilot program at the Lundquist College, launched fall term, in which one section of the introduction to sports business course was taught in a mixture of English and the Mandarin Chinese language—Mandarin being the second most common language spoken by business students at the University of Oregon after English.

The objective of the experiment was to build an on-ramp of sorts for first-year international students to feel more comfortable and be more successful during their time at Oregon.

Jordan Luo, a junior at the UO studying public relations, was born in China. He took the sports business course, and he said minimizing the language barrier clearly helped international students feel more confident and stay better engaged in class.

The majority of the coursework is identical to any other section—the only difference being lectures delivered in Mandarin. Some case studies also shifted away from the United States to examples more relevant to China.

Referring to his experience, Luo said, “I think it is a brilliant idea and should be continued.”

Course instructor and Oregon MBA alumnus Dupree Zong was born in China and is currently employed at Nike. It was his first time leading a classroom.

“The students felt comfortable walking into a class knowing the language,” Zong said, adding that cultural differences were a nonissue. They were also more comfortable sharing their opinion and asking important questions.

“They don’t feel shy or different,” he said.

After a successful fall term pilot, the program will expand next year, with courses for first-year international students taught in a mix of Chinese and English each term, said Dennis Galvan, vice provost for global engagement and strategic initiatives at the University of Oregon. Galvan had a hand in developing the initiative, originally conceived by Provost Patrick Phillips.

By the end of their first year, international students will be more ready to complete the rest of their studies in English, Galvan said.

Future courses in the program may also be taught in Arabic—the third most common language among international students at UO—as well as in topics beyond sports business, he said.

The pilot program is a way to send a message of welcome to international students, Galvan continued.

“We understand and support them in the big transition that every international student makes when they come from a faraway country and have to learn in a new language,” he said. “International students are really important to who we are.”

—William Kennedy, Lundquist College Communications