Hi, my name is Francis Chen. I am a high school junior and a Chinese-American at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo, California. While I am not a UC Berkeley student (and I have desires to apply and attend this wonderful campus), I feel really bad about the proposed budget cuts which could dramatically alter the funding and quality of the East Asian Languages at UC Berkeley.
It is extremely important to learn about one's own language, so that one can learn about his/her ethnic background and culture. However, this is extremely difficult to do, with the heavy emphasis towards education, especially towards fields like business, engineering, or sciences (i.e. medical), which "Asians" traditionally and generally are told by their parents to pursue because of the guaranteed profits which will come out of those fields. Whether or not students will actually like those fields is one issue. When students approach the campus, the focus on these fields could be so great that there would seem like there is limited time to actually learn about the languages. These threatened budget cuts, as well as the limiting of students for learning these languages to only students of the College of L&S, make it easier to close the window of opportunities for Asian-American students to learn more about their cultural background in a time when it doesn't seem "important". Too much priority on EDUCATION and not enough time on learning more about our culture is already one impediment; closing the opportunities to a growing middle-class of Asian-Americans to learn about their culture is just too much.
When I was a freshman in high school, I had went to Chinese School to learn one year of Mandarin in Oakland (I'm a conversational-Cantonese speaker). I didn't have the best pinyin teacher, so I went to a conversational Mandarin teacher, who taught me a lot of basic Mandarin phrases. I also learned a little bit of Mandarin from television and a few phrases from my parents. Those were about it; I don't go anymore because of a lack of time and "the low priority" at the time. Now, as a Junior, I regret it, and I have become even more busier. I still remember the phrases and pinyin. In my free time, I have actually taught myself a little bit of Japanese (I was actually pretty good at it before the AP exams were coming).
While I may not get accepted to UC Berkeley (I want to major in Civil Engineering, East Asian Studies, or both if possible), I hope that the EALC can be saved by any proper ways that are possible. The budget cuts were inevitable, and it's up to any private donors who can help out to save the department). Those who aren't in a language major because of priorities but want to learn about their own language anyway need to be given the opportunities that I had lost in high school and trying to regain now. I have a hard time picturing how we, as the next generation, can carry our culture down with this issue. I have desires to go to Asia and help preserve East Asian architecture, and I want the university to give us who just want to learn about our culture to give us that chance.
--Francis Chen (fncis.chen AT gmail.com)