Aug 2017
30

Lost in Translation? Bilingual Education May Be the Answer

Language is a powerful tool that can drive communication, learning and development. Jennifer Zuo, Head of Chinese Business Department at London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) in Singapore, sits down with Julailah Wahid to explain why and how bilingual education can shape minds and elevate one’s learning.

In the age of Google where nearly everything can be translated with a click, is bilingualism still useful and relevant? According to Jennifer, the ability to converse in and understand several languages is more valuable now than ever before.

Jennifer asserts that while technology has enabled ease of communication, its functions are only limited to simple or direct translation – often with lack of context. The internet is helpful for translating basic words and providing general meaning, but “its overall accuracy is often very low or inconsistent”. The problem with ‘machine’ translation is that there is no way to incorporate context.

“Machines won’t be able to give you the real meaning, cultural nuances, and context behind words. As such, you might get ‘lost in translation’. This is where the knowledge of two languages will be of great advantage,” she said.

Promoting Bilingual Education

LSBF is the only private education institution in Singapore to offer Chinese-English bilingual programmes. Jennifer, who heads the school’s Chinese Business Department (CBD), built the programmes’ pedagogy around four key pillars: language, cognition, interpretation, and positive and active learning.

“LSBF’s CBD upholds these teaching philosophies to create a unique teaching model, in order to ensure academic quality and strengthen students’ bilingual learning ability at the same time. The CBD faculty also comprises lecturers with enriched teaching experience, bilingual proficiency, and educational background,” she said. 

The CBD Pedagogy:

The CBD programmes have a unique bilingualism model grounded in sound theory and good practices. While the programmes are designed to give students exposure to the business world, the merit of bilingual education lies in teaching students how to learn and think in two different languages.

Jennifer admits that there are challenges in running bilingual programmes. Some students may feel that it is “impossible to study a course in two languages while others might expect everything to be conducted in bilingual”.

“Due to time and resource constraints, we are unable to offer a programme with 100 per cent bilingual practice. To this end, we have carefully selected certain key modules, such as Business Accounting, Business Economics, and Project Management, to be taught in bilingual,” she said.

As for the other modules, the school provides bilingual slides, study guides, and recommended Chinese and English version textbooks for students’ reference. There are also English courses offered to CBD students.

Springboard to the Chinese Market

As the second largest economy in the world, China is poised for even greater growth following the launch of the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative. The B&R Initiative, which will extend across Asia, Europe, and Africa, is projected to boost trade and investment and lead to economic growth, according to HKTDC.

This year, LSBF became the first private education institution in Singapore to secure a project related to the B&R Initiative through a partnership with Xiamen University. Earlier in July, LSBF in Singapore opened the Belt and Road Multi-Cultural Studies Centre at its campus in collaboration with Xiamen University’s Overseas Education College.

Jennifer says that LSBF in Singapore is working closely with Xiamen University, and “both sides will push forward our shared vision of transnational education by providing holistic study experiences and cultural exchanges”. 

LSBF in Singapore has also launched Xiamen University’s Bachelor of Management in Accounting and Bachelor of Economics in International Economics and Trade (2-Year Top-Up programmes).

The programmes will offer a good opportunity for students to understand the current situation of international economic and trade development, international trade rules and practices, as well as China's foreign trade policies and the socio-economic situation of major countries and regions.

Jennifer adds that such programmes will also make it possible to deliver two-way learning.

“We can provide relevant education to local students and businesses that are interested in doing business with China. At the same time, we can provide relevant training courses to staff and students from China who are interested in LSBF’s Business, Finance, and Accounting courses,” she said.

Jennifer sees great potential and opportunities ahead for CBD.

“In an increasingly globalised world, being bilingual will open up a plethora of opportunities for you. I hope for my students to master bilingualism and apply their knowledge, culture and language across the region – and beyond,” she concluded.

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