At East Point Academy in West Columbia, students raise their hands to answer a question. The charter school offers immersion language training in Mandarin Chinese. Hong Lee/Provided
A third-grade student at East Point Academy described her day in Chinese for a class project. Hong Lee/Provided
Mandarin Chinese is a famously difficult language for native English speakers to learn as adults. As with any language, experts say it’s best if you start young.
In small pockets across South Carolina, some public school students are getting just such an opportunity. A handful of public elementary schools offer Mandarin language programs starting as early as preschool, and a pair of new Mandarin immersion charter schools serving pre-kindergarten through eighth grade recently earned approval to open in the Charleston and Greenville areas in 2018.
The road map for the Mandarin immersion program in the Forest Hills Public Schools, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I recently ran across the web page for the Forest Hills Mandarin immersion program in Grand Rapids, a town in Western Michigan and wanted to give them a shout out. They launched in 2008 and will have their first class enter high school in the fall of 2017.
I especially like the “road map” they provide which clearly lays out how the program works from Kindergarten through high school, describing how it works in each grade and where the schools are – and where students can veer off.
This is all too often a mystery in many school districts, with nowhere to go to clearly see the full program and only parent lore to explain it. Kudos to Forest Hills for being so helpful and transparent.
This is an interesting read. I have white friends in Cupertino who sent their kids to private schools because their local public schools were “too intense” for them. So I’ve certainly see this at work.
On the other hand, I wonder if racism is exactly the right word. Perhaps culturalism? Perhaps something else? Certainly I’ve seen the same debate around intensity play itself out in Mandarin immersion schools between Chinese-Americans who have been in the United States for two or three or more generations and recently-immigrated Chinese families.
I remember one parent, a fourth-generation Chinese-American doctor married to a third-generation Chinese-American engineer, who said to me after a heated meeting about how many characters the kids were learning, “Wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever been called lazy and someone who didn’t care about my kids’ education.”
And then there was the white mom I met on school tours in San Francisco who wouldn’t even look at public schools that didn’t have a high percentage of Asian students, because she was actively seeking the academic intensity they brought with them.
All of which is only to say that families in Mandarin immersion schools need to be very aware of what we ourselves bring to the table, so we don’t unconsciously (or consciously) add prejudice to the mix.
Essayist & literary critic. The Guardian, NBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and elsewhere. anjalienjeti.com.
Aug 25, 2016
Ghosts of White People Past: Witnessing White Flight From an Asian Ethnoburb
If diversity is so important to liberal whites, why do they keep fleeing ethnically diverse suburbia?
By Anjali Enjeti
For the first time in my life, I am not a racial minority when I move to Johns Creek, Georgia. People from myriad cultures, ethnicities, religions, and nationalities deem this patch of earth home. Persian and Indian markets bookend strip malls. Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, Korean, and Chinese restaurants perch on the corners of major intersections.
One blustery winter morning, I tour a preschool for my then-youngest child. The director, a petite woman with light brown hair, greets me warmly in the foyer, hands me a pamphlet describing the classes, the curriculum, the school’s philosophy. At the end of the tour, she asks if I have any questions. I shake my head, thank her for her time, and open the glass door to the parking lot when she calls out in a cautionary tone: “This area has changed quite a bit in the past few years. It’s really, really different.”
Not to cast a pall over parents with young children in immersion programs, but it’s interesting to see what’s happening ten years down the academic line.
That said, the world our children will find themselves is likely to be very different. If you have a first grader in Mandarin immersion today, they will graduate from college in in 2033 – and everything about today’s geo-security situation and economy will be different.
And of course as we always say, there are multiple reasons why it’s a great thing to have bilingual children, even if they don’t ever work in China. So take this with a grain of salt but also realize that things change.
April 15, 2017 11:00 am JST
American students lose interest in China studies
From: The Nikkei Asian Review
Concerns about pollution, work opportunities take toll on enrollment
PAUL MOONEY, Contributing writer
Some observers say that study abroad programs in China need to address student demand for internships and work opportunities, not just focus on language and culture.(Courtesy CET Academic Programs)
BERKELEY, U.S. – Early in his presidency, Barack Obama set a goal to vastly increase the number of Americans studying Chinese and taking part in academic programs in China.
Eight years later, Obama is gone and so is much of the academic momentum. Though China looms ever larger in U.S. economic and security concerns, American universities are experiencing a decline in the enrollment in Chinese language courses and study abroad programs. The growing sense that work opportunities in China are harder to come by is compounding worries about pollution and other living conditions.
Stanford University announced in January it would indefinitely suspend its undergraduate program in Beijing as of May. The school’s student newspaper reported that enrollment had fallen by around two-thirds from 2004 to just eight last year. The university had earlier merged its Chinese and Japanese language degree programs into a single East Asian studies course.
Mr. Peterson reached out to me about how to find families and get them involved in the new school they’re creating in Contra Costa County (just north of Berkeley for you non-San Francisco Bay area folks.) I was quite impressed with his enthusiasm and awareness of the issues. It sounds like it’s going to be a good school. And again, kudos to the district for creating a whole school and not just a strand. That’s such a huge leg
WCCUSD’s new Mandarin language school gets first principal
March 30, 2017
Eric Peterson has been named principal of the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s (WCCUSD) new Mandarin language school that is set to open in August.
Peterson currently serves as the WCCUSD Director of Special Education. Before that, he was the principal at Dover Elementary School in San Pablo.
He is an award-winning educator with “a long history with the Mandarin language” and has experience building and sustaining bilingual programs, according to Superintendent Matthew Duffy.
In 2011, Peterson was honored in a White House ceremony as a National Board Certified Teacher and is active in several professional organizations, including the California Association for Bilingual Education, the district said.
There are several in Minnesota through CARLA, the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition.
Make sure your administrators know about these. Link is here.
Here’s CARLA’s general website for immersion programs.
Summer Institutes for Language Teachers
The CARLA summer institutes listed below are primarily targeted at K–12 and post-secondary foreign language and ESL teachers. They are not designed to meet the unique needs of immersion teachers. Please refer to the bottom of each page for specific information about the target audience. Please see the section below for immersion-specific institutes.
Mandarin immersion programs in the United States continue to expand, with nine new programs scheduled to launch in the fall of 2017 for the 2017-2018 school year. For the coming school year, there will be at least 235 Mandarin immersion programs in 30 states and the District of Columbia.
Here’s an update for the current State of Mandarin Immersion, based on the database of programs I maintain here. I have tried to keep it as up to date and accurate as possible, but if you find errors, please send me an email so I can correct them