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Foreign Language And Cultural Understanding In Engineering Curricula

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

International Engineering Education II

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.638.1 - 10.638.11



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Paper Authors

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Sarah Smith

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Foreign Language and Cultural Understanding in Engineering Curricula

Prof. Sarah J. Smith Purdue University North Central


Today’s transnational organizations recruit engineers who are multilingual and possess cultural understanding. Foreign language diversity and cultural understanding enrich both the corporation and the university. Global diversity deepens an organization’s ability to establish and maintain a competitive edge. Progress has been made in recruiting, hiring, retaining, and promoting engineers with foreign language and cultural skills. How should engineering educators support corporate goals and encourage placement of graduating engineers in a global environment?

Objectives: • Profile engineering/technology academicians from China, India, South America and the Middle East to enhance understanding of country differences • Share Fortune 500 transnational engineering recruitment preferences • Explore marketing techniques to successfully attract international students • Create an environment for retention of all students

Profile 1: China

Higher education opportunities in China are very limited as compared to the United States (US).1 The Chinese government heavily funds economic growth, yet this is not the case for education. The government of China invests merely 2.3% of its GNP 2 into the educational system, as compared to an investment of 5.4% in the US. An expanded list of GNP expenditures for education is provided in the appendix. China’s population increased rapidly and educational investment remained status quo. Thus, admission into a Chinese university is possible for a very small percentage of aspiring students.

Chinese students learn English as a required subject for the Chinese College Entrance Examination. The English learned, however, is text book. It is common for Chinese students to be able to read and write English well, however, their pronunciation lags. The level of English required for Chinese entrance exams is not adequate to compete scholastically on the university level in the US. Thus, students often enroll in English courses prior to or in conjunction with studying at a US university.

In general, Chinese students are well disciplined. Chinese junior and senior level schools levy great pressure on students. Much time and energy is required to compete. Summer break is approximately two months versus the US average of three months. Schools offer “extra study” on Saturdays, and an additional three to four weeks of “extra study” during the summer months.

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Smith, S. (2005, June), Foreign Language And Cultural Understanding In Engineering Curricula Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14473

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015