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A nice essay about how easy it is to lose a language

January 7, 2022

It astounds me sometimes when I heard of people denigrating immigrants who speak their home language with their kids, or who say immersion programs keep kids from learning English. Truth be told, retaining a home language is very, very hard and requires a ton of work and persistence. The amazing thing is that second-generation children ever speak anything but English. Here’s a nice essay about how a language can so easily slip away.

As A Chinese American Mother, I Didn’t Want My Family’s Native Language To End With Me.

The author of The School for Good Mothers on how raising her daughter forced her to confront her relationship with Mandarin.

BY JESSAMINE CHAN

Elle, JAN 4, 2022

Why can’t you read?” It was spring 2020. The interrogator was my daughter, who was three at the time. My parents, Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants who came to the U.S. in the 1970s, had gifted her the picture book Guji Guji by Chih-Yuan Chen, which is about a baby crocodile who believes he’s a duck and joins a family of ducks. Hijinks ensue. It’s a tale of acceptance, belonging, and family. Though this version contains an English translation crammed onto the last few pages, all the fun illustrations are in the body of the book, where the story is written in Chinese characters.

I’d like to tell you that I could once read the book in its original language, but actually I never could, despite two valiant years of Chinese courses in college. But as a child, I would have understood the story being read to me, say by my parents or grandmother. At my daughter’s age and through elementary school, I was bilingual. My parents and maternal grandmother spoke to me almost exclusively in Mandarin. I could carry on my side of the conversation. I didn’t feel lost in Mandarin, as I do now.

Please read more here.

Brooklyn’s Science, Language, and Art School didn’t start classes this fall. Now parents are suing

December 30, 2021

A private French immersion school in Brooklyn, New York that added a Mandarin track in the 2019-2020 school year failed to open this fall and parents are suing, saying the school owed $6.1 million back rent and demanded tuition deposits while never telling them how dire the financial situation was.

The Science, Language & Arts International School abruptly shut down operations 13 days before school was to start, but kept tuition deposits of up to half the $30,720 families had paid for the year, a class-action suit filed by more than 25 families alleges.

“On August 27, 2021—or 13 days before the scheduled start of the 2021-2022 academic year—Plaintiffs and the putative class received an email sent on behalf of the SLA Board advising them that SLA would not open at all for the 2021- 2022 academic year and that their children would be required to attend school elsewhere,” the suit says.

According to the lawsuit, the school didn’t tell parents that it had not fully paid the monthly rent and real estate taxes due under the lease for its main campus location at 9 Hanover Place in Brooklyn as far back as October 2018.

It also didn’t tell families that on January 29, 2021 the school received written notice from its landlord that its lease on its campus had been terminated effective February 12, 2021 for nonpayment of rent, taxes, fees, or utilities, the suit alleges.

When the landlord began eviction proceedings against the school, it owed unpaid rent of $6.1 million, the lawsuit alleges.

According to the lawsuit, this was happening even as the school told parents they had to pay at least half their tuition to hold a place in the 2021-2022 class.

Some email notes from Jennifer Wilkins, the school’s director, are quoted in the lawsuit:

May 28, 2021

Summary of SLA Community Meeting: “SLA will be in session next year. Your children will have classes, and teachers, and the standard of education that we have always maintained.”

June 2, 2021

Community Q&A: Will SLA be open next year? Will this impact SLA’s ability to go up to 8th grade? Yes, operations will proceed as normal. We still intend to grow to 8th grade.

July 16, 2021

Wilkin, sent an email to the Class categorically stating that “a rumor that SLA might not reopen,” was “not true.”

The school’s website, http://www.sla.org, is no longer in operation. Wilkin’s LinkedIn page still lists her as the director of the school:

“A published author and leader-innovator in education, Jennifer Wilkin is the founding director of Science, Language & Arts International School (SLA), is the owner-director of Bonjour/Hola/Ni Hao NY camps, and consults on matters related to curriculum and language acquisition. Her books have been published by National Geographic Learning, Macmillan, and Cambridge University Press.

Science, Language & Arts International School (SLA) is a Nursery through Grade 8 private school focused on hands-on science, arts, and math, providing children with a rich and rigorous multilingual education in French and Mandarin. SLA is an inclusive, anti-bias school.”

I have reached out to Wilkins via Linked In. I will also remove it from the list of Mandarin immersion schools, which will be updated in the coming week.

The current page at the school’s former website, slaschool.org

How well does Mandarin immersion work in preschool?

December 17, 2021

It’s becoming easier to find Mandarin immersion preschools in many cities where there are Mandarin immersion school-age programs. But many parents wonder how well they work and what they should be looking for when touring preschools.

Thankfully, our friends over at the Chinese Early Language and Immersion Network (CELIN) at the Asia Society convened a meeting last February to look into the matter. Held in New York City with leaders of the early Chinese education schools, universities, and state initiatives, they have now released an excellent paper on what they found. It’s aimed more at educators than parents, but as with all the CELIN briefs, there’s a lot that will be interesting to parents.

Here’s the link to the report.

These are the questions they sought to answer:

  1. Who are the providers of and key players in Chinese immersion preschool education in 2020–2021?
    What are the successes and common issues, needs, and challenges that they face?
  2. What does a quality Chinese immersion preschool look like?
  3. What does research inform us about the role and value of preschool education? How does Chinese immersion preschool education contribute to a child’s growth, development in bilingualism and biliteracy, and school achievement over time?

Also, definitely check out their other briefs here.

St. Michael’s Catholic Academy in Flushing, NY celebrates Chinese New Year

November 29, 2021

This is from last year, but as St. Michael’s Catholic Academy is one of only four religious Mandarin immersion programs I know of, it’s interesting to see what they’re up to.

As part of their celebration of Catholic Schools Week, students at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy in Flushing observed the Chinese New Year with a variety of age-appropriate lessons and activities in their classrooms on Friday, Feb. 12.

The activities included studying Chinese artwork, the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, cultural and food traditions, as well as crafting lanterns and making dumplings.

Please read more here.

Los Angeles area district graduates tri-lingual students

November 18, 2021

By: Leah Pezzetti May 28, 2021

LAKESIDE, Calif. (KGTV) – A couple dozen of the seniors getting ready to graduate from El Capitan High School in June are not only wrapping up their high school careers, but a lifetime of unique cultural and language studies.

The Grossmont Union High School District partners with Lakeside Union School District elementary schools in a program called the Global Language and Leadership Program, which teaches children Spanish and Mandarin starting in Kindergarten, resulting in bilingual and trilingual high school graduates.

Please read more here.

Just how well do Mandarin immersion programs do?

November 4, 2021
Bryce Canon

The short answer is, we don’t really know all the way out to high school. I haven’t seen any national studies looking at how students do when they reach the end of high school.

Anecdotally, motivated students in districts with strong programs seem to do well, but how do students do overall? It’s the perfect project for someone getting a Ph.D. in education (hint hint) but so far I haven’t seen any studies on it.

Which makes this news snippet out of Utah all the more interesting. Parents in St. George (near Zion and Bryce Canon) are upset because too few of their high school are passing the Advanced Placement test for Chinese Language and Culture.

Harmony Vanderhorst, a local parent with three children involved in Chinese immersion classes, said the rate of students passing the 10th grade exams to demonstrate their Chinese fluency was extremely low.”

“The ball has really been dropped with the Chinese program,” Vanderhorst said. “There are some huge gaps that need to be addressed. I think the program has amazing potential, but it definitely needs to be readdressed.” 

See the full article from the St. George News here.

I’d be curious to hear how students in your school district do when they get to high school and take the AP exam. Feel free to comment below.

Read more here.

New York’s Avenues to open a Silicon Valley campus Fall 2022.

October 20, 2021

Avenues: The World School, which includes Mandarin and Spanish immersion strands, is opening a California outpost in San Jose. The for-profit school network has schools in New York, São Paulo, Brazil and Shenzhen, China. The San Jose school had planned to open this year but due to COVID-19 will be opening next year instead. It’s already purchased a building in the city and has hired much of its staff. It’s to be called Avenues: Silicon Valley, and the school plans to open in the fall of 2022.

550 Meridian Ave Campus for Avenues World School birds eye view.

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — A New York private school plans to launch a location in San Jose, raising the benchmark for expectations and tuition.

The Avenues, headquartered in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, has finalized the purchase of 550 Meridian Avenue, a 77-thousand square foot, three-story office building in the midtown area of San Jose, in a $27 million all-cash transaction.

Read more here.

And another story here. And here. Here’s a story about the network’s flagship school in New York.