Why can Palo Alto grade schoolers read Mandarin better than students in AP Chinese classes
June 4, 2015
By Joyce Gemperlein
Tyler and his mother Susan Kramer in a classroom at Ohlone Elementary School in Palo Alto, Calif. (Photo by Norbert von der Groeben)
Tyler and Susan Kramer in the Palo Alto, Calif., school where he studies Mandarin. (Photo by Norbert von der Groeben )
Two studies led by Amado Padilla show that young immersion program students achieve proficiency in Mandarin without falling behind in other subjects.
Stanford Graduate School of Education researchers found that 4th and 5th graders in a Palo Alto, Calif., Mandarin immersion program attained a level of linguistic competency comparable with that of nearby high schoolers completing the 4th and 5th level Advanced Placement Mandarin courses.
Some of those Ohlone Elementary School immersion students even outperformed the teenagers in reading. Perhaps most startling, there was little difference in achievement between the heritage learners at Ohlone and their classmates who had no previous exposure to Mandarin.
Those findings and more are detailed in the Spring 2015 issue (link is external) of Foreign Language Annals from a research project led by Stanford GSE’s Amado Padilla. It is the first study to compare exiting elementary immersion students — in any language — with high school students studying the same language, he said.
“We were really surprised how strong the immersion language learners emerged when compared with the high school students — stronger than we had imagined,” Padilla, professor of psychological studies in education, said, adding that the findings show the benefit.
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