Global Asia Program graduate combines cultural and language studies

June 25, 2021


Tara McGee has always been interested in languages. After finishing French Immersion in high school, she began studying Mandarin in her second semester at SFU, and went on to major in linguistics. Studying languages also led McGee into the Global Asia Program – having grown up in Vancouver, it was natural for McGee to want to explore the variety of Asian cultures she was exposed to in her East Van neighbourhood. “I discovered the Global Asia Program after I started taking courses that can be applied towards it,” says McGee. “After taking CHIN 100, I decided to take HIST 255 because I was interested in learning more about China. I then found myself interested in a lot of history courses related to Chinese and Japanese history and I realised that I could do a minor in Global Asia since I had already completed a lot of the prerequisites!”

McGee also completed a Chinese Studies Certificate along the way. “Although a lot of people like to think that linguistic students learn how to speak languages or learn to classify or remember all the languages in the world, it’s more about analysing the form of language and how humans use or produce it” says McGee. “Studying specific regions like China and Japan allowed me to learn more about the linguistic diversity and issues in these specific areas.”

In particular, through the Global Asia special topics course GA 400 (Race and Nation in East Asia), taught by Simon Nantais, McGee learned that there are nearly 300 spoken languages in China, with only 56 officially recognized by the Chinese government. “I also got the chance to mix my linguistics and Global Asia knowledge to write about the threat of language loss in China, with Mandarin taking over as the lingua franca.”

After graduating, McGee plans to teach English in South Korea, Japan, or China. She is already hard at work completing her TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate. She is also considering graduate studies in linguistics.

What advice does McGee have to new undergraduates thinking of adding a Global Asia minor to their degree? “If you’re just interested in pop culture and ancient history it might not be right for you. The courses focus on contemporary and political themes, so there is a lot of critical thinking and discussion involved. Most of the courses dive super deep and get very engaging so if that is what you are into then you should do well. Taking language courses for the cultures that you are studying makes understanding the terms so much easier, because a lot of them don’t translate well into English!”