Michigan offers online Mandarin lessons to every student

With the rise of China, interest is strong in program from Michigan's Confucius Institute.

Preparing Michigan high school students for the emerging Chinese superpower economy, Michigan State University is offering every student in Michigan a chance to learn Chinese, mlive.com

Michigan State University's language institute, in partnership with Michigan Virtual University, is offering every high school in the state one free "seat" in an online Chinese language and culture class next year.

"Any one of us is more likely to work with a Chinese company," said Yong Zhao, an education professor and executive director at the Confucius Institute at MSU. "Through learning Chinese language, you will definitely get a better understanding of the culture and get rid of misconceptions."

Private and public high schools are being offered the classes for up to 750 students. High schools can sign up additional students at $350 a semester.

The course in Mandarin Chinese is a one-hour course four days a week. Once a week, native Mandarin speakers from MSU hold online teleconferences where small groups of students interact.

As the Chinese economy continues to expand, more people have become interested in learning Chinese. One survey found that there are 30,000 to 50,000 U.S. students studying Mandarin today.

MSU's Confucius Institute is one about 20 in the country, but the only one to offer Chinese instruction online.

Steve Ackley, director of communications for the council, said he gets a call at least once a week from a reporter writing about schools offering a new Chinese language course.

"Languages like Mandarin and Arabic are really jumping to the fore now. Back when we did the study (2000), they barely registered," said Steve Ackley, director of communications for the foreign language council.

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