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Mandarin immersion in San Diego

January 19, 2012

Chinese, It’s the New Spanish

By Elizabeth Salaam | Published Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012

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Chinese, It’s the New SpanishPhoto by Alan Decker

Robert Dorsey is not Chinese, but he drives 25 miles from El Cajon to Point Loma every morning so his two daughters can learn to speak, read, and write in Mandarin.

“In my culture, it’s English, Ebonics, and maybe a little bit of Spanish,” says Dorsey, who is African American. “About ten years ago, my wife was in college, and her professor told her Chinese was the language to learn. I want to give my kids a little bit of an edge in life.”

His daughters, in first and third grade, attend Barnard Elementary, a Mandarin Chinese full-immersion magnet school. In kindergarten, students spend 80 percent of their day (about four hours) reading, writing, and listening to Mandarin. The other 20 percent, they spend on English Language Arts. In first grade, it’s 70 and 30 percent, and second grade, 50-50. Third through sixth graders attend a 45-minute pull-out Mandarin class each day, but as the program, now in its fourth year, grows, those grades will conduct half of their lessons in Mandarin.

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