Letter to the Editor: Cantonese at Stanford

May 26, 2017, 12:15 a.m.

To the Editor:

I’m writing regarding the “Letter to the Editor: Cantonese at Stanford” written by the director of the Language Center in response to Samantha’s Wong article of May 5, 2017.

The status of Cantonese is a complicated issue. As a concerned alum and the Cantonese instructor at Stanford, I feel obligated to respond to the Director’s statement in which she says: “To claim that Stanford refuses ‘to allow Cantonese to meet the foreign language requirement’ is false.”

In recent years, this is what I have experienced regarding Cantonese and the foreign language requirement:

  • In September 2013, I tested a freshman and was told by the associate director of the Language Center that no more students would be allowed to use Cantonese for the requirement.  
  • In June 2014, Samantha Wong emailed the Language Center about using Cantonese to place out of the requirement. The Language Center told her that only placement testing in Mandarin was offered. I didn’t know about her case until last April, when she came to interview me for her article about Cantonese at Stanford.
  • In September 2016, another student’s request was brought to my attention by a new Student Services officer.  I tried to make a case for the student and this is the response that I got from the same associate director who spoke to me in 2013: “This has come up before. We offer placement testing only in Standard Modern Chinese as a language to fulfill the university requirement.”

The director states in her letter: “A student met the Stanford language requirement with Cantonese proficiency just three days ago.”  The student was Samantha Wong, and this is Samantha’s version of how that happened in her article: “After writing this article, the Stanford Language Center offered to proctor the Stanford Chinese placement test for me, customized for Cantonese.”

I am grateful that the director has spelled out the current Language Center’s policy in her letter and Cantonese is now allowed for the foreign language requirement. I sincerely hope we can all move forward from that basis.

– Sik Lee Dennig Ph.D. ’92
Cantonese Instructor

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