Chinese Flagship Program immerses students in foreign language, culture

Anna Roederer

The ability to speak another language fluently after only four years of study might seem impossible, yet WKU provides students with such a chance through the Chinese Language Flagship Program.

The Chinese Language Flagship Pilot Program began at WKU in 2009 and is a nationally recognized intensive language program with language proficiency as the end goal for students.

The program has steadily increased every year from nine students in 2010 to 52 students. Melinda Edgerton, the Chinese Language Flagship Program coordinator since 2010, recognizes the importance of focusing on individual students and not just numbers.

“I am continuously impressed by the achievements of our students.” Edgerton said, “They really are the stars of the program.”

An increasing number of students are taking advantage of this unique, yet challenging opportunity to immerse themselves in the study of Chinese.

One of these students is Lawrenceburg junior Jessica Brumley.

Like most students in the program, Brumley had never studied Chinese before.

“I started the program on a whim,” Brumley said.

This whim quite literally paid off as between the course of two summers in China Brumley spent only $100 due to scholarships.

Louisville senior Bailey Mack joined the Chinese Language Flagship Program with different reasons from Brumley.

“I had studied Spanish for a really long time and it wasn’t as engaging as it used to be,” Mack said. “I wanted a new challenge,”

Mack got the challenge she desired.

“You either sink or swim,” Mack said. The program, however, does not let students flounder on their own.

The Chinese Language Flagship Program provides tutors who do not speak English with the students, according to Brumley.

Although the Chinese Language Flagship Program is very demanding, the professors also make a point to build positive relationships with the students.

“It is not anything unusual for a professor to pull me aside after class and ask if I am getting enough sleep,” Brumley said.

Not only are the professors very helpful, but so are the native speakers. Both Mack and Brumley have had positive encounters practicing Chinese with the locals.

“The people were so excited that we were there to study their language,” Mack said.

Sampling the local cuisine provides another learning opportunity in addition to practicing language skills and interacting with the culture.

“All the food I’ve eaten would make my mother’s stomach churn,” Brumley said.

Pig intestines are a Chinese staple, according to Brumley.

These experiences are unique to the program, and the students are at the heart of the Chinese Language Flagship Program.

“Their input really does make a difference,” Edgerton said.

As the numbers grow, the personalized attention to the students will remain the same.