Broadening horizons and job opportunities through language

Thu, Sep 27, 2018

Aaron Throness was in Grade 5 when he felt inspired to learn Mandarin. He met a new friend who had immigrated to Canada from China and, as he got to know him and his family, Throness knew he had to learn the language.


“Mandarin possesses such cadence, it embodies over 4,000 years of history and evolution within its pictographic and ideographic characters,” he says. “It’s so vastly different in comparison to European languages.”


Throness has become so accomplished in the language that he was granted a scholarship from the Chinese government to participate in a month-long Mandarin studies immersion program at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He completed the program earlier this year along with two other Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) students.


“He has studied diligently and invested countless hours into honing his Chinese language skills inside and outside of the classroom. I believe that this scholarship is recognition of the hard work Aaron has put in to mastering this difficult but inspiring language,” says Dr. Yanfeng Qu, Mandarin studies instructor at KPU.


Throness credits Dr. Qu, with helping him not only academically but also professionally, particularly with how he can apply his Mandarin skills in the workplace.


He says his experience learning a new language has had many benefits, including being a gateway to understanding and experiencing a new culture.


“I am able to understand customs, take part in festivals and appreciate Chinese culture through language.”


He says it also helps people expand their learning beyond their comfort zone. “You interact with locals, experience a new style of education and a way of life.”


For the past 12 years, he’s been studying Mandarin and when it was time to choose a university, KPU caught his attention.


“My decision to come to KPU was primarily based on its Mandarin program. They had everything I was looking for – student-focused education, small classroom sizes, and excellent instructors.”


Now, after finishing his third year of Asian Studies, Throness has left KPU to prepare for graduate studies abroad.


Qu says 50 per cent of the students in his class are of European, Japanese and Korean heritage. In one class he has five students of Indian heritage, the biggest number he’s seen in 22 years.


“In terms of careers, being fluent in multiple languages will open many doors to both domestic and international job opportunities and will definitely make our students professionally more attractive to prospective employers,” Qu adds.


Throness warns Mandarin is no easy task, but very much worth it.


“It requires an incredible amount of self-discipline, dedication and years of studying to become accomplished.”


To learn more about the Mandarin program at KPU, visit


Story by Sucheta Singh.