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Kenya will start teaching Chinese to elementary school students from 2020

April 14, 2019

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From Quartz

By Abdi Latif Dahir 

Kenya will teach Mandarin in classrooms  in a bid to improve job competitiveness and facilitate better trade and connection with China.

The country’s curriculum development institute (KICD) has said the design and scope of the mandarin syllabus have been completed and will be rolled in out in 2020. Primary school pupils from grade four (aged 10) and onwards will be able to take the course, the head of the agency Julius Jwan told Xinhua news agency. Jwan said the language is being introduced given Mandarin’s growing global rise, and the deepening political and economic connections between Kenya and China.

“The place of China in the world economy has also grown to be so strong that Kenya stands to benefit if its citizens can understand Mandarin,” Jwan noted. Kenya follows in the footsteps of South Africawhich began teaching the language in schools in 2014 and Uganda which is planning mandatory Mandarin lessons for high school students.

Please read more here.


The Dual Immersion Solution

April 7, 2019
From Edutopia

The Dual Immersion Solution

Instead of seeing English language learners as a costly challenge, districts are increasingly recognizing the assets they bring to their schools.


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November 16, 2018

Traigan sus bocas, que vamos a cantar,” croons the man’s voice—bring your mouths, we’re going to sing. The kindergartners here at Bethesda Elementary willingly oblige. As the song plays in Spanish, they bring their ears to listen, hands to clap, and bodies to dance. But at the end of the day, the song is really about those mouths.

Attending one of Bethesda’s 10 dual-language immersion classrooms, these kindergartners spend half of each day learning English language arts and social studies in English, and the other half learning math, science, and Spanish language arts in Spanish. At the school, more than half—57 percent—of students are non-native English speakers, or English language learners (ELLs), and 9 in 10 students are low income.

Bethesda is among a growing number of Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) in Georgia offering such an opportunity. These schools aren’t alone. Driven by rapidly increasing linguistic diversity in public schools, districts throughout the country are scrambling for ways to meet the needs of ELLs, who now total nearly 5 million U.S. students—an increase of over 1 million since 2000.

Please read more here.


What’s it like to up and move to China? Read this book to find out

April 3, 2019



The Foreigners are in 709 is the book I suspect most of us would write if we had the gumption to just up sticks and move to China with our kids. Not a historical treatise, not a novel, not a deeply-researched analysis. Just the daily issues that come up when you relocate to China, especially when you don’t do it as part of a hefty ex-pat corporate package.

It’s what Hope Solomon Young, her husband and their two daughters did in for a year beginning in May of 2012. They were lucky enough to have mobile jobs, which allowed them to relocate for a year, and they took advantage of it.

The book is a rewrite of a blog that Hope kept during their time in China, so it’s got a day to day feel to it that gives a sense of the ups, downs (and sideways) of living in a foreign country, one where you don’t speak the language. It reads like a series of emails from a friend who’s over there rather than a research project, which is actually kinda fun.

Both girls were adopted from China and the Youngs took seriously the form they signed saying they would teach their children about their Chinese heritage. Their girls were in school at EE Waddell Language Academy in the Chinese immersion program, so they have been going to school in Mandarin since kindergarten.

The family moved to Beijing, in a grungy apartment in a highly unfashionable neighborhood where they never saw other Westerners. They also signed their girls up for a local public school. In fact, if there’s one ding I’d give this book it’s that I’d like to hear a lot more about what life was like for the girls at school, what they learned, how well they did and whether it was difficult to reenter an American school. However I realize that most of her readers are interested in the China part, not the language immersion part.

They had a lot of mishaps, none major, and a fair number of adventures. Especially their every-three-months visa runs to leave the country so they could come back in and renew their tourist visas.

I expect some of the things Hope writes about are different enough now that the book can’t be a roadmap for anyone thinking of doing the same. That said, it’s an honest look at what it’s like to live in China as a non-Chinese speaker and someone who’s not deeply steeped in the culture. If you’ve ever dreamed of doing something like this, I highly recommend it.

It’s available on Amazon here as a paperback.






Study: Dual Language Immersion Programs aren’t much more expensive

March 31, 2019

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New Study Examines Costs of Dual Language Immersion Programs

From the New America Foundation

By Ingrid T. Colón

Sept. 28, 2018

Dual language immersion (DLI) programs—where students are given academic instruction in two languages—are becoming increasingly popular due to the economic, cognitive, and academic benefits bilingualism may confer on students.

Because DLI programs offer specialized instruction, it’s often assumed that they cost more to implement than monolingual programs. For example, they need qualified bilingual teachers who understand the different program models as well as teacher professional development. They also need curricula and instructional tools in languages other than English. Moreover, logistical costs in DLI programs need to be considered, including the process of enrollment in DLI programs, which requires the management of slots andtransportation for students in these programs. While many studies have examined the academic impact of DLI programs, there is scant research on the costs of these programs.

A new study, published in the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (EEPA), explores the costs of DLI programs and monolingual English programs in Portland Public Schools (PPS). The study aims to uncover differences in these programs spending over time and analyzes the processes by which these programs are connected with student achievement. Portland Public Schools (PPS) has a long history of supporting DLI and uses a lottery process for student admission into these programs. In 2012, PPS partnered with the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, RAND Corporation, and the American Councils for International Education to conduct a comprehensive study of their DLI programs, including academic impact andimplementation.

Please read more here.

Is it worth learning Chinese?

March 27, 2019

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A hard question to answer, because the answer is different for every person, and in fact each person probably has several answers. The essay below is by a young Chinese-American woman who’s now living in China. It touches on some important points about our sometimes unthinking presumption that if a young person is fluent in both English and Chinese, the world will be their oyster. Not necessarily, and less so as more overseas Chinese return to China, fluent in both languages and with cultural contacts.

Above all, remember that we’re not putting our kids in Mandarin immersion because it’s a conveyor belt to a great job. We’re doing it to give them options later in life, just as we make them study geometry and pre-calc so if they choose, they have the option of doing math and science based studies in college.

My takeaways are these:

  • Learning Chinese gives you the ability to talk to about 1/7th of the people on the planet. In and of itself, this is a wonderful thing.
  • Chinese is a beautiful, rich language with 3,000 years of history.
  • Learning Chinese teaches you perseverance.
  • Learning Chinese teaches you how to memorize (a skill that’s actually still quite useful in the world.)
  • Learning Chinese opens your eyes to a much broader world.

That said, if you really want to use your Chinese in the work world, you need to do more:

  • You’ll need skills that make you someone companies in China, Taiwan or Singapore want to hire.
  • You should probably get a double degree, or a major/minor, in an area with job opportunities and in Chinese, so you have those skills in addition to your language skills.
  • Even if you study a liberal arts topic, take a few economics/business courses. It’s always useful to be able to understand how money works. And everyone should be able to use spreadsheets, they’re a remarkably powerful and yet simple-to-use tool for studying information. [Note: I say this as someone with a degree in Swedish literature, and yet I’ve done just fine in life. But I do wish I’d taken a few business classes in college.]
  • Do a summer or semester or year abroad in China or Taiwan, and when your Chinese is good enough, take some classes in Chinese.


The Actual Worth Of Chinese Language Proficiency

By Frankie Huang

SupChina March 20, 2019

There’s an argument currently happening on Chinese social media about the value of learning English. The very same conversation can be had about foreigners learning Chinese.

Unfortunately, the answers aren’t the same.

A debate over the necessity of English language skills has dominated the Chinese internet these last few days, sparked by a patriotic internet personality who proclaimed English to be a “trash skill” and a waste of time. Many have responded that while they are held hostage by educational and employment requirements for English proficiency, there is in fact substantial demand for Chinese workers fluent in English in the job market.

Demand for foreigners who speak Chinese, on the other hand, is a different story.

A few weeks ago, I inadvertently started a small feud in the China-watching corner of Twitter over the importance of Chinese proficiency for job acquisition and career advancement in China. My tweet that set it off was a bitter one: “No, being fluent in Chinese does not tend to make you a stronger job candidate even in fields where it makes sense, like marketing, finance or international trade. You’d think so, but no. Take it from someone who has to live with this and stop helpfully telling me otherwise.”

Please read more here.

Character Literacy Acquisition in Mandarin Immersion Classrooms: Lessons from More- and Less-Proficient Readers

March 23, 2019

A workshop in June for teachers. CARLA does great immersion workshops.

Character Literacy Acquisition in Mandarin Immersion Classrooms: Lessons from More- and Less-Proficient Readers

June 17-19, 2019Language Teachers

Promoting high levels of character literacy among immersion learners is arguably one of the Chinese immersion teacher’s greatest challenges. During this three-day institute, participants will examine key findings from CARLA’s research study comparing Mandarin Immersion (MI) students’ use of strategic reading processes in Chinese (L2) and English (L1). Together we will explore similarities and differences in the oral reading behaviors of more- and less-proficient MI readers, analyze the nature of common substitution errors, and compare decoding and comprehension processes between languages and learner groups. Bridging research to practice, we will work collaboratively to identify and learn about instructional practices that move MI learners towards more fluent character processing and improved text comprehension.

Tara Fortune is the Immersion Program director at CARLA and will serve as the lead instructor and institute facilitator. She devotes most of her professional time to the preparation and continuing education of immersion educators throughout the United States and abroad. She oversees research initiatives in immersion that have recently included a focus on strategic character literacy development.

Zhongkui Ju is a Ph.D. candidate in the Second Language Education Program at the University of Minnesota. He has served as a research assistant for the Immersion Projects at CARLA for the past four years. His dissertation research focuses on Pinyin and character literacy in early total Mandarin immersion contexts.

Molly Wieland is the program coordinator for the XinXing Chinese Immersion Program in Hopkins Public Schools (Hopkins, MN). She has been involved in the development of the district’s first Mandarin Chinese immersion program since it began in 2007. Molly oversees curriculum and staff development for K-11 Mandarin immersion teachers. As a parent of a student in the program, she offers both the perspective of program specialist and parent.

Guest presenters will include several veteran immersion teachers and specialists who will share their expertise at the institute.

Target Audience: K–8 Mandarin immersion teachers, program coordinators, and administrators.

Additional Resources for Immersion Educators:

  • Immersion Research-to-Action Briefs
    • How Can Learner Language Inform Mandarin Immersion Teaching?
    • Secondary Immersion Teaching and Learning: What Role do Classroom Materials Play?
    • Preschool Immersion Education in Persian
    • Reading Strategies: At Risk and High Performing Immersion Learners

Babies who hear two languages at home develop advantages in attention

March 19, 2019

I recently spoke to parents at Hudson Way Immersion School in New York City and at their campus in Stirling, New Jersey. One question that came up from several families where at least one parent speaks another language was the value of raising bilingual children. There is a great deal of research showing it’s excellent for children. This is only the most recent study I’ve seen.


Six-month-old babies who are brought up hearing more than one language show advantages in early development of attention

TORONTO, Jan. 30, 2019 – The advantages of growing up in a bilingual home can start as early as six months of age, according to new research led by York University’s Faculty of Health. In the study, infants who are exposed to more than one language show better attentional control than infants who are exposed to only one language. This means that exposure to bilingual environments should be considered a significant factor in the early development of attention in infancy, the researchers say, and could set the stage for lifelong cognitive benefits.

The research was conducted by Ellen Bialystok, Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology and Walter Gordon Research Chair of Lifespan Cognitive Development at York University and Scott Adler, associate professor in York’s Department of Psychology and the Centre for Vision Research, along with lead author Kyle J. Comishen, a former Master’s student in their lab. It will be published January 30, 2019 in Developmental Science.

The researchers conducted two separate studies in which infants’ eye movements were measured to assess attention and learning. Half of the infants who were studied were being raised in monolingual environments while others were being raised in environments in which they heard two languages spoken approximately half of the time each. The infants were shown images as they lay in a crib equipped with a camera and screen, and their eye movements were tracked and recorded as they watched pictures appear above them, in different areas of the screen. The tracking was conducted 60 times for each infant.

Please read more here.

And check out the video here.