Translated webpages link Whitman to Shantou University

Josh Goodman

Whitman’s online footprint grew a little bigger on Monday, Sept. 28, with the translation of the first Whitman webpage into Chinese.

Rensi Ke, a senior China Sherwood Scholar exchange student from Shantou University, posted a translation of Whitman’s Fast Facts page onto her school’s online bulletin board.   This is the first in a series of several Whitman webpages Ke plans to translate in an effort to educate students at her university about Whitman.

“We have a student’s handbook at my university,” said Ke, who is also a columnist for The Pioneer. “When I do the translations, I can compare the two types of [colleges]: what [students] need in their everyday life, in their academic life, in their extracurricular life.”

Thanks to the translations, her classmates in China can also compare the schools.

“I’ve learned about the size, the site, the student formation with the ratio of students and instructors and the tuition, which amazed me most because it’s pretty expensive for me,” said Shantou University junior Jasmine Ding.

Ding also found Whitman to be a diverse community.

“There are students from almost every state of America, and almost every corner of the world,” she said. “It’s like a condensed world where people with skins of white, of yellow and of black color can stand under one sky, upon one ground. I enjoy that sense of feeling.”

Director of Off-Campus Studies Susan Brick is glad that the webpage translations can help expand Chinese students’ understanding of Whitman.

“China doesn’t have liberal arts colleges, per se, and people there don’t usually know what they are,” she said. “Even if translating parts of our Web site only helps people in China understand the variety of models of higher education in the U.S., that’s still worthwhile. Some of the Shantou University students who see it might aspire to go to graduate school in the U.S., so understanding U.S. forms of higher education might be important.”

In addition, the translation of Web pages furthers Whitman’s longstanding relationship with Shantou University. Besides hosting China Sherwood Scholar exchange students, Whitman has also sent at least two alumni to Shantou University each year since 2002 to be English interns, serving a similar role as native speakers in language departments at Whitman.

To build on that relationship, Brick also hopes Whitman students learn more about Shantou University.

“Even for our graduates who we send to teach English in China, one day of the teacher training is devoted to cultural norms and values in China. But there’s still a limit to how much we can really convey . . . for Whitman seniors headed to China about what their Chinese host university will be like,” she said. “I’d say the understanding of our Chinese partner universities is pretty rudimentary among students at Whitman.”

Ke plans to translate more Whitman Web pages into Chinese.

“Some of [my friends and classmates] are encouraging me to do more, some of them are telling me what they would like to know more about Whitman,” she said. “For example, they would like to know how Whitman students manage to meet the academic challenges at Whitman, how you organize various kinds of extracurricular activities and how your clubs at other activities organize.”

Brick hopes those additional pages expand Shantou University students’ understanding of Whitman.

“Obviously [with] this generation of students, people are more inclined to get their information from the Internet,” she said. “To the extent that the information is in their own language, I think that will help.”