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Chinese immersion program in Lafayette, La. is teaching students more than language

November 22, 2020

Leigh Guidry, The Daily AdvertiserPublished 10:25 a.m. CT Feb. 16, 2020

Zhaoting Xia sits at the front of her classroom at Cpl. Michael Middlebrook Elementary School in Lafayette, facing a group of kindergarteners while holding a basket of fake fruit and veggies in her lap.

The 29-year-old teacher holds paper copies of Chinese currency and invites kids up one at a time to use the “money” to purchase something from her pretend fruit stand.

All of this takes place in Chinese.

Xia is one of five Chinese immersion teachers at Middlebrook, home to the first such program in Louisiana. All five teachers are from China. Two are visiting teachers, like Xia, who can be contracted for up to three years. Two are local residents.

Louisiana’s only other Chinese immersion program is offered at Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet. LeBrun said it has a similar enrollment to Lafayette’s program.

Please read more here.

Hudson Way immersion school celebrates 15 years – And starts to reopen

November 8, 2020

February 28, 2020 marks the 15-year anniversary of the first class of 5 students that Sharon Huang held in her Maplewood home in 2005. As an international marketing executive and a mother of then 1-year old twins, Sharon understood the importance of global skills and the need to begin this learning as early as possible. Since then her journey has touched the lives of over 2000 children and spawned a groundswell of similar programs in New Jersey, New York and in other cities across the country.  

Sharon’s belief in the concept was founded on the convergence of three trends:  1) the growing understanding that immersing a child in a second language has cognitive benefits enabling children to outscore monolinguals in standardized testing, 2) the increasing need for global skills in the workplace, and 3) the interest of parents in investing earlier for quality child care for greater benefits later in life.  

Please read more here.

HudsonWay Immersion School Provides Reopening Plan for 2020-2021


From HudsonWay Immersion School

HudsonWay Immersion School, a Preschool to Grade 8 Mandarin and Spanish immersion school, made its reopening plan for 2020-2021 available to its community and the public this week. As a smaller school in a facility that can normally accommodate twice as many students, HWIS can safely socially distance at 6 feet, and has been working towards this plan since the Spring. Parents are offered a choice of on-site schooling 5 full days a week or remote learning. 

“Whereas larger school districts and other private schools have had to figure out what hybrid models would work, we are in a situation in which we were able to spend our time and efforts preparing for a safe return of all our students 5 days a week,” said Sue Ha, Head of School. “We have upgraded our air filters, installed touchless soap and paper towel dispensers, purchased electrostatic sprayers, PPE, and special cameras to support hybrid learning among efforts. We are committed to making this transition as comfortable and safe as possible.”

Students at HWIS learn the same academic content taught at top tier public and private schools, but in two languages — (1) English and (2) Mandarin or Spanish.   Students can enter in the elementary grades without prior language experience and become bilingual after one year. Many middle school students achieve language proficiency capable of scoring 4’s or 5’s on AP tests and positioning themselves to earn the Global Seal of Biliteracy, a distinction recognized in New Jersey, New York, and 38 other states. HWIS has the reputation of developing academically strong students who surpass independent school norms on the ERB assessments and get accepted to top tier independent schools in NJ and NY.   

HudsonWay Immersion School (HWIS) is a full immersion Mandarin and Spanish school serving children ages 2 through grade 8. The school is located on two campuses – Stirling, NJ and Midtown West, NYC.

Please read more here.

What does a Mandarin immersion classroom look like?

November 1, 2020

The Asia Society’s Center for Global Education has a nice page of videos showing teachers teaching in Chinese classes across multiple grades. Even if you don’t speak Chinese, it gives you a flavor of what goes on in these classes, with some English commentary on the teaching interspersed.

And if you’re a parent contemplating a Mandarin immersion program for your child, here’s a chance to see what it looks like not just for five minutes touring a school, but for a full hour-long lesson.

Here’s the page that lets you choose among videos.

Talk about immersion support: Washington DC has a Language Immersion Project non-profit

October 18, 2020

From: The DC Line

Feb. 3, 2020

When Vanessa Bertelli moved with her family from Shanghai to Washington in 2010, she was sure her children would have access to dual language education. It is, after all, the nation’s capital. A child of a bilingual family, Bertelli grew up in Switzerland speaking English and Italian, surrounded by multilingualclassmates.

“Coming to DC and realizing that there were so few programs was really shocking to me,” she said. 

Bertelli realized at a young age the value of multilingualism because she saw the positive effects it had in her classes. “Understanding that not everyone thinks like you is a huge part of being more tolerant,” she said. “I appreciate that, and want that for the place I’m living in.”   

Bertelli began advocating for dual language programs soon after arriving in the District. In 2012 she joined a small community of parents and families working to start a dual language program in their neighborhood school, Garrison Elementary — an effort that was unsuccessful. 

Seeing a need to inform DC families, educators and lawmakers of the benefits and options for language learning, Bertelli went on to launch the DC Language Immersion Project in 2014 alongside Jimell Sanders, now chair of the organization’s board. In partnership with multiple DC agencies, the group sponsored the city’s fourth annual Multilingual Education Fair on Jan. 25, drawing 145 exhibitors and a daylong stream of families to the Roosevelt High School atrium.

Please read more here.

Happy Moon Festival

September 29, 2020

Whether your students are in school or doing school from home, the Moon Festival is almost upon us.

For folks who didn’t grow up in families that celebrated what’s properly called the Mid-Autumn Festival, here’s a little background.

The Moon Festival is a traditional celebration held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month in the Chinese calendar, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest of the year.

There are many stories about the festival centering on the Goddess of the Moon, Chang’e 嫦娥 and her husband the archer Houyi 后羿, who are only allowed to see each other once every year on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, when the moon is full.

At it heart, though, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest celebration. Just like at Thanksgiving, families try to be together for the holiday.

There is plenty of symbolism for the holiday that is about the full moon. The moon is round, symbolic of the family coming together. It’s popular to eat a family meal together called tuán yuán fàn 团圆饭 or “reunion dinner.”

If the family can’t all get together, they they all look at the moon and think of those who are not together with them knowing they’re all looking at the same moon.

In China people exchange lyrical text messages talking about how they wish they could be together. You can find some examples here.

It’s also a time to eat moon cakes. These are hockey puck-sized treats that consist of a thin pastry coating over a disk of (generally) sweet red bean paste or lotus seed paste. Lotus seed paste is very sweet and something like the Chinese equivalent of marzipan.

Inside that sweet filling in most moon cake is a single, hard-cooked, salted yolk from a duck egg. The saltiness of the yolk contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the filling, or at least it does for me. Some moon cakes feature two yolks, which seems like too much for me but your taste may vary. But perhaps more importantly in a culture enamored of symbolism in food, the egg yolk is thought to look like the full, round moon. Moon cakes are cut into thin wedges and typically served with tea.

Moon cakes have become an important present to give during the weeks around the Moon Festival. Go into any Asian supermarket and you’ll find the front of the store piled high with stacks of different types and price points, depending on the quality and how fancy the packaging is. While sweet red bean paste and lotus seed paste are the most common, you’ll also find nut-filled, pineapple and melon (these are vile, I’m just warning you.) There are also smaller silver dollar-sized moon cakes that are more single serving.

This year we can’t go visit family and friends. But we can send texts, look at the moon and know that they, too, stand under the same moon. We’re all in this together.

And if you’d been wondering how moon cakes are made, here are some cool videos:

How mooncakes are made

Making traditional mooncakes

Mooncakes: What they are and how they’re made

Explaining the mooncake

A second Mandarin immersion school proposed for Washington D.C.

September 16, 2020

Washington D.C.’s Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School is an extraordinarily popular Mandarin immersion charter school in the city. For the 2020-2021 school year it had 62 seats available for 3-year-olds entering its preschool. The waitlist was 423 students long. By Kindergarten there are no seats available as they’re all taken up with the school’s preschoolers.

It’s also Washington D.C.’s only Mandarin immersion program.

That could change.

A group of parents has proposed a new charter school, to be called Global Citizens Public Charter School. It would offer both a Mandarin immersion track and a Spanish immersion track.

Interestingly, Maquita Alexander, the principal of Washington Yu Ying, is one of the school’s advisors, so it’s clear people in the District realize there’s a need for more immersion schools.

And of course there’s the DC Language Immersion Project, a non-profit that seeks to “engage families, support educators, research best practices and advocate for a systemic approach to equitably increasing opportunity and strengthening communities through multilingual education.”

The Global Citizens school seeks to enroll its first class of preschoolers in the 2020-2022 school year, beginning Kindergarten in 2022-2023. It would located in the District’s Ward 7 or Ward 8, both high poverty areas that have few language immersion options. It would be K – 5.

The proposal for the school’s charter makes clear that it is also a case for equity in city where there are multiple language immersion options in wealthier parts of town.

At Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS (East End), which is the only public charter school offering a language immersion program east of the Anacostia River, there were 318 students on the waitlist (for Pre-K3 through 1st grade) for the 2019-2020 school year8. Even more startling – nearly 50% of the students who attend public charter schools and live in Wards 7 and 8, attend a public charter school located in a different ward.9 That is 9,965 (almost 10,000) students leaving Wards 7 or 8 to find high quality school options. This is clearly an equity imperative!

The the time the school is fully enrolled, in 2027-2028, it envisions 525 students, half of whom would be in the Mandarin immersion program.

The application was submitted on January 7, 2020. You can read it here.

The Economist says studying Chinese is in decline in the U.K.

September 10, 2020

Learning languages
Why studying Chinese is in decline

Mandarin is out of fashionAugust 29, 2020

The article is behind a paywall, so the link below might not work for most folks. The two most salient points are below. Which makes me curious — have your feelings about Mandarin immersion changed in the past few years? Feel free to post a comment.

Many independent schools followed the fashion: 24% of them offer Mandarin, compared with 4.4% in state schools. But finding a school that offers Mandarin is no longer the priority it was for parents three years ago, says Ralph Lucas, editor in chief of The Good Schools Guide. Part of the reason is that “the perception of China as a place where you would want your child to make a career has taken a severe knock”. Learning Mandarin to a useful level is difficult, and China “doesn’t seem like the big golden opportunity it was before”. Recent events, such as the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, further “take the gloss off” the idea of investing in a Chinese education.

and this:

Advocates of learning Mandarin say that a more complex geopolitical situation is exactly why children should be practising their tones. But those who have invested the hours (and the cash) don’t always reap the rewards. “The only real advantage of me speaking Chinese was having a much better understanding of how difficult it was for my Chinese colleagues to operate in English,” says Alex Wilson, who worked in public relations in Beijing and Shanghai. Graduates from the School of Oriental and African Studies can expect to be earning £27,000 five years after graduating if they studied Chinese, or £38,000 if they studied economics. Yun Zhen is studying for a Masters in Education at the University of Reading and hopes to be a Mandarin teacher. But “honestly, I don’t see many opportunities,” she says. Now she’s looking for teaching experience in “any subject”.

The difficulty of learning Mandarin will always attract academic kids and pushy parents. Mr John of Hatching Dragons notes that parents increasingly “see bilingual immersion for its cognitive benefits. For them, Chinese is (almost) secondary to the linguistic input”. The idea that Mandarin itself is a hot ticket is fading. Better to train the children in a computer-programming language. “Compared to how much more employable you can make yourself by learning something like Python, which you can learn in a few months,” according to Mr Wilson, “Mandarin seems like an inefficient use of resources.”

Please read more here.