Erik StewartStudent Erik Stewart

Major: Industrial Engineering
Minor: Chinese, German

Why did you choose to learn Chinese and German?
Languages bring an immense amount of joy to my life. Being able to converse with people from different cultures and different areas of the world in their native language is such a gratifying feeling that many people may not get to experience if they don’t choose to study foreign languages. I didn’t realize how amazing languages were until I started learning Mandarin Chinese and was able to speak with locals in China about topics which we would not have been able to discuss if I would not have known Mandarin. After discovering my passion for languages, I then realized I wanted to expand my horizon by learning even more languages, including German, so that I would be able learn about more people in this world, as well their culture and traditions.
Achieving an advanced level of Mandarin was something which was induced after I had first found my passion for the Chinese culture, food, and people. This then gave me motivation to learn the language of the people who had been so generous and thoughtful in teaching me about their culture and traditions.

Why do you think it is important for STEM students to learn a new language, two, in your case?
Learning a new language can change your perception of many aspects in the world. The way that you both identify and tackle problems will be influenced by knowing multiple languages. When placed in a multicultural team, you will not only be able to convey ideas more easily to team members through their native languages, but it is possible that you may also be more understanding of the team by knowing more about the culture and backgrounds of individual team members.

Knowing additional languages also allows for the possibility of traveling the world during your professional career. There is also a significant amount of scientific and engineering literature which is still written in a country’s native language. Knowing those languages can not only give you advantages in the workplace, but may also allow you to understand the full meaning of the text which may not be conveyed properly through translation. Bosses want people in their company who are both open-minded and conscious of the ones around them – two features which learning foreign languages can bring to you.

What do you think of the course offerings in SLC (CHNS and GER), and the faculty who you took classes with and worked with, or mentored by?
The Chinese courses available are adequate for those who want to achieve a good command of Mandarin. There are also options to learn more about Chinese culture, food, calligraphy, and literature (both classical and modern). All of my professors have been very helpful in explaining hidden meanings of the language and always making additional time to help students with any problems they may face along the learning process.
The German classes which I have taken also provide means for students to reach an intermediate to advanced level of German. I focused on classes related to science and engineering in the German-speaking world, along with two business-oriented German courses. The extra vocabulary related to science and business was a great bonus to have for someone who would like to work in a German company or live in Germany in the future. My professors always found current articles and technologies to discuss in order to allow students to learn the terms which may be applicable in our future professional lives.

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