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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.

Sky Kids Mandarin program for the fall

August 30, 2020

Full disclosure: My daughter worked as a counselor at the Sky Kids camp in Taiwan last year. 

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First class of seniors graduates from Minnesota’s XinXing Academy program

August 29, 2020

XinXing Academy is a Chinese immersion program in Hopkins, Minnesota. It opened at Eisenhower Elementary School in 2007. XinXing (新星) means New Star in Chinese.

The XinXing Chinese immersion program is part of Eisenhower Elementary School and is K-6.

XinXing students move on to Chinese immersion course offerings for grades 7-12 at Hopkins West Junior High and Hopkins High School.

XinXing is an early total immersion program. All core subject matter is taught in Mandarin Chinese for the full day from Kindergarten through second grade. Students learn to read and write in Mandarin first.

English language arts are introduced for the equivalent of one hour per day beginning in grades 3-4, and there is an even distribution of English and Mandarin by grades 5-6. Special curriculum areas (art, music, physical education) are taught in English, but Chinese language and culture are infused into those courses whenever possible.

XinXing has a partnership with Wuning Road Primary School in Shanghai, China and provides opportunities for educational exchanges between our schools.

Three Hopkins High School students discuss their time in Chinese immersion

  • By Lydia Christianson
  • June 5, 2020
  • The Sun Sailor

The first class of XinXing Academy students will graduate from Hopkins High School on June 4. The 17 students took Chinese immersion since kindergarten. Three students discussed their 13 years studying Chinese in interviews with the Sun Sailor.

At first, study Chinese was intimidating for Claire Ruthenbeck. She remembered being nervous and felt she wouldn’t be able to communicate with her teachers. But, Ruthenbeck got used to it and it became easier over time.

“There were times when learning Chinese was really challenging,” she said.

Please read more here.

Baton Rouge District finally agrees to middle school for Mandarin immersion students

August 21, 2020


From: The Advocate

Dec. 23, 2019

BR FLAIM — short for Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet — started with only French and Spanish. But the popular magnet school added Mandarin Chinese in fall 2013 with an initial class of just 12 kindergartners. Six years later, that class shrank to eight fifth graders.

Theresa Porter, director of magnet programs, said with so few fifth graders it was hard to justify the expense of continuing the program to sixth grade.

“With just eight kids, it was almost impossible to do,” Porter said.

But Chinese enrollment in the lower grades is stronger, including 22 students in third grade, so Porter is optimistic a full-blown middle school program will soon prove financially feasible.

Please read more here.