[lg policy] Bowdoin College announces language minors in Chinese, Japanese

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Nov 12 16:59:22 UTC 2011

College announces language minors in Chinese, Japanese
November 11, 2011

By Melissa Wiley

At the faculty meeting on Monday, the Curriculum and Educational
Policy Committee (CEP) announced its decision to add minors in Chinese
and Japanese languages. This decision will apply to graduates of the
Class of 2012. The minors will consist of five courses: four language
classes and one culture, literature or film class.

Until now, only language classes at the third-year level or above have
counted toward the Asian studies major, which requires the study of an
East or South Asian language. While the Asian studies minor does not
require language study, two language courses can contribute to the
minor if they are the same intermediate-advanced to advanced level.

Where other languages conduct three hours of class per week, plus one
discussion hour with native-speakers at the intermediate levels,
Chinese, Japanese and Arabic courses require five hours of class time.
The new minors are aimed at recognizing the time and effort that goes
into learning these languages.

"Japanese is a challenging enough language that we want to give the
appropriate recognition for students who learn [it], and we feel that
the minor will let them take [that] ownership," said Vyjayanthi
Selinger, assistant professor of Asian studies and interim Japanese
language coordinator  "Our data...suggests that a good number of
students take the first two years of language and do not have it
reflected on their transcripts," she said. "The new minor [will]
acknowledge the efforts of these students and offer them recognition."

There are currently 40 students enrolled in the four levels of Chinese
language offered. Twenty-four students are in the three levels of
Japanese. Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Chinese Language
Coordinator Songren Cui expressed his hope that official recognition
will encourage students to continue their language studies. "It takes
a lot of time and effort and commitment to study both Chinese and
Japanese," he said.

According to Cui, a proposal was submitted by a group of students in
2003 asking for a Chinese minor, which was rejected. Another student
petition brought Elementary Arabic to the College in fall of 2008.
While the time and effort required to learn Arabic is similar to that
needed to learn Chinese and Japanese, Bowdoin does not offer an Arabic
minor. Russell Hopley is currently the only faculty member teaching

Last spring, the College invited external reviewers from Mount Holyoke
and Williams College to assess courses in Chinese, and from Amherst
and Smith College to review those in Japanese. According to Associate
Dean of Student Affairs Jim Higginbotham, the College invites
consultants to review departments every 10 years or so.

The reviewers submitted a report to the Dean's Office in July
suggesting that the College offer minors in these languages, on
account of the fact that there are a sufficient number of faculty and
all levels of the languages are taught. Each language has two
full-time and one part-time faculty.

The Japanese consultants noted that there was "a widespread assumption
on campus that only [Asian studies] majors and would-be majors can
take Japanese." In addition to providing incentive for investments of
time and energy, the minors would work to increase visibility.

Informed of the recommendation shortly after, the Chinese and Japanese
faculty worked together to draft the minor proposal, which they
submitted to the CEP last week.

Bowdoin joins peer schools Bates, Bryn Mawr, Colby, Middlebury, Mt.
Holyoke, Smith, and Swarthmore in offering Japanese and Chinese
minors. Williams, Carleton, and Amherst do not have minors in these
departments. The structure of Bowdoin's minors will most closely
reflect those of Swarthmore, Dickinson, and Mount Holyoke, where the
languages are housed within an Asian studies program and can
contribute to either the Asian studies major or a language-focused


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