Isabella Marchand at a tea farm in Hangzhou, China
When Isabella Marchand signed up for the Study in China program through Renison University College, she didn’t speak a word of Mandarin. She knew that communication would be a challenge as she made her way through Nanjing, Bejing, and Shanghai over a six-week period. But with an intensive language course set up through a partnership between Renison, the Confucius Institute, and Nanjing University, she was able to read about 500 Chinese characters and speak conversationally by the end of her trip.
“I loved doing little things like directing cabs, ordering food, asking if stores had certain products, and enjoying a bit of small talk with locals. Being back home now, I've even had someone doubt that I'd only spent a month and a half studying Mandarin,” says Marchand.
This program is one of many language-learning opportunities at Renison, an affiliate of the University of Waterloo. Open to any member of the community, Renison offers Community and Professional Education (CAPE) classes in Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Japanese, Korean, and Turkish. There are also courses for multilingual speakers looking to improve their English through Renison’s English Language Centre (ELC).
Tanya Missere Mihas, Director of the ELC and the Associate Director of International and Intercultural Development at Renison, says that these courses are an excellent form of professional development or continuing education for members of the community or university students looking to learn a new language without affecting their GPA.
“Studying languages and learning about different cultures can help inspire students to engage in a study or work term abroad,” says Missere Mihas. “Working and studying in other countries is becoming more common. Being introduced to this as a university student is a great way to embark on global citizenship. Our community courses can give students a head start on such experiences as they provide small class sizes and a relaxed environment, both being ideal for language acquisition.”
While the Study in China program allowed students to learn Mandarin in a native speaking country, the on-campus classes engage students through immersive and intimate classrooms (usually between five to fifteen students). Classes are taught by native speakers of Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Turkish, and English. Each course consists of a weekly two-hour class over the duration of ten weeks, usually happening on a weekday evening between 7:00-9:00 pm.
Fall 2015 courses start the week of September 21; this term, Renison is offering 14 different language classes. Each course costs $250 (with a one-time application fee of $30 if you are a first time registrant) and the deadline to sign up is September 18, 2015. Students can register and pay online.