Mandarin course in the pipeline for Rhodes

By Daniel Charvat

The teaching of Mandarin as an additional language at Rhodes seems to be a possibility for next year. A Confucius Institute is to be set up within Rhodes, following discussions between Rhodes University and the Chinese Hanban (similar to the British Council or the United States Agency for International Development).The Hanban has given Rhodes approximately R1 million as a means of starting up the project. This funding falls under a five-year contract between Rhodes and the Hanban. In addition, Rhodes will be sent a Chinese lecturer at the Hanban’s expense for the duration of the five years. Chinese 1 will potentially be offered from next year onwards, and students who complete their first year course should be able to understand and speak Mandarin in basic everyday situations. The ultimate goal is to have a major in Chinese studies available by 2011.

China hopes to actively engage with Rhodes and, through the Confucius Institute, Rhodes will develop a relationship with soon-to-be sister university, Jinan University in Guangzhou, China. Through this arrangement, exchange programmes will also become possible between Rhodes and Jinan University. Professor Russell Kaschula, Head of Rhodes School of Languages, says the university wants to approach the project as a means of internationalisation. An aim is also to offer students an additional language and culture to study. Kaschula confirmed that the contract has been approved by the Senate, and it is now just a matter of finalising the paperwork.

The meeting, held on 22 August, was chaired by Kaschula and members from both Stellenbosch University and the University of London attended. Since its inclusion of Mandarin as a language, Stellenbosch has seen student numbers in the course rise from just 19 in 2004, to close on 100 this year. Stellenbosch has since signed a contract with the Hanban and the Confucius Institute to broaden their scope on Chinese studies. George Zhang, course co-ordinator and spokesperson for the Confucius Institute in London, confirmed that, since implementation of the Confucius Institute in 2004, the figure for Confucius Institutes worldwide stands at close on 250 to date.If all goes as planned, Rhodes will offer Mandarin as a language from February next year, with Professor Marius Vermaak acting as interim director for the programme.

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