You got to dance with who brung you

A year or two ago a colleague who teaches business classes at my university suggested allowing students – whose term projects focused on opportunities in nations where English was not the predominant tongue – prepare their final reports/portfolios/presentations in Cantonese, Punjabi, Farsi, whatever the case may be. That is, students would create work in the language their intended recipients actually speak (a really good idea!).

I was thinking of these students the other day after reading a CBC article which noted that, starting this fall, “students studying traditional Chinese medicine in B.C., will no longer have the option to take their exams in the Chinese language.” Why? It costs too much to translate these exams into Chinese.

John Yang, chair of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, has criticized this development.

The change is a problem for students who are proficient in Chinese, according to Yang, because the practice is so old and was originally recorded in traditional Chinese. Some nuances have been lost in translation so anyone who can read and understand the original text has an advantage, he said.  

“In the English dictionary, there is no one-to-one translation for every concept,” he told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn. “When there is a question or debate arising, we will always go to the origin of Chinese doctrine or textbook to find an answer, so that’s why it is important to keep the Chinese language in the traditional Chinese medicine profession,” Yang said.

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