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South Carolina Mandarin immersion, and a new bilingualism center at the University of Southern Carolina

September 7, 2019

Fourth-grader Maddie Freeman wants to be an FBI agent when she grows up.

“I like how detectives work crimes, and I see a lot of news stories that say the FBI and CIA are looking for people who speak Chinese and other languages,” Maddie says.

At just 9 years old, she’s well on her way to becoming bilingual thanks to a Mandarin immersion program at her school, Meadow Glen Elementary in Lexington, South Carolina.

“Knowing Chinese can get you a lot of jobs because a lot of places are looking for people who can speak different languages and are bilingual,” she says.

Maddie and the other 240 students in the school’s immersion program spend half of their day learning solely in Mandarin. Even her math lessons are taught in Mandarin. Her mother, Kimberly Freeman, says she and her husband, who spent two years working in China at the start of his career, wanted a multicultural education for their children.

Please read more here.


Hawai’i’s only Mandarin immersion program just got a $250K gift to expand

September 4, 2019

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The state of Hawai’i, remarkably, only has one Mandarin immersion program. It’s at Maryknoll School and launched in the 2017-2018 school year.

Now a gift from a former pupil is allowing that program to expand.

Maryknoll alumnus Douglas Ho presented the Catholic schools with a red Chinese envelope which has in it a check for $225,000. It’s a grant from Ho, who graduated from the K – 12 school in 1960.

The gift, announced on Feb. 8, will allow the school to expand Hawaii’s only school-day Mandarin immersion program through 6th grade six.

You can read more about the program here.

And here’s a nice article about it.

And here’s an NPR piece about the program where you can listen in on a first grade class.


Immersion growing in southern California

August 30, 2019

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This is a general article about language immersion programs in southern California, but it gives a nice overview. Some interesting tidbits:

  • Anaheim Elementary School District has at least one language immersion class in each of its 23 campuses. Currently that’s 22 Spanish programs and one Korean.
  • About 2% of all Los Angeles Unified School District students are in an immersion program, 13,000 out of 647,000.
  • This is happening in part because in 2016 voters approved Prop. 58, which repealed the infamous Prop. 227, which mandated “English-only” instruction in public schools.

Schools are teaching kids in Korean, Arabic, French as dual immersion programs expand beyond Spanish

Region that once pushed ‘English only’ today is ground zero for bilingual education

From: The Press-Telegram

In Maritza Bermudez’s home, the goal has been to speak Spanish as much as possible. But starting next school year, Korean will be thrown into the mix.

Bermudez, who lives in Anaheim, is enrolling one of her children in a Korean/English language immersion program – the first of its kind in Orange County and part of a growing trend throughout Southern California.

“We know it’s going to be challenging,” Bermudez said. “But being trilingual is being a step ahead.”

While a new group of kindergarteners, including Bermudez’s son, will be learning their ABC’s in English and Korean, others in the Anaheim Elementary School District will be learning in Spanish and English.

The district will be the first in Orange County, and possibly the state, to offer language immersion programs for at least one class on all of its 23 campuses in the new school year: Korean-English at Jefferson Elementary and Spanish-English everywhere else.

Meanwhile, the idea of teaching in two languages is gaining traction, nationally and in Southern California. Smaller districts, such as Anaheim Elementary, are joined in the trend by some of California’s biggest school districts, such as Los Angeles Unified and Riverside Unified, both of which are expanding their dual-language options.

Please read more here.

Interview with a Chinese immersion student ten years out: A “first and a half” language

August 21, 2019

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The guys at Mandarin Companion, my favorite easy-to-read Chinese novel publisher, have started a podcast called “You Can Learn Chinese.”

Mostly it’s language-geek kind of stuff about Chinese, learning Chinese and teaching Chinese. I.e. the kind of stuff I love but which might not be for everyone.

But they’ve got one episode in which they interview Caitlin Lee, a woman who now works in China who attended a Chinese immersion school in the United States from Kindergarten through 8th grade, which parents will find interesting.

Caitlin comes from a Caucasian family and no one in her family spoke any Chinese when they first put her older brother in the program just after it started.

You can find the webpage about the podcasts here.

And the interview with Caitlin is in Episode 3 here.

The first bit is about the founders of the company, Jared Turner, John Pasden, and their quest to learn Chinese. The immersion part starts 27 minutes in.

They don’t name Caitlin’s school, but it must be the Cantonese immersion program at West Portal Elementary School in San Francisco, which launched in 1984. It’s the first Cantonese immersion program in the country and she says her oldest brother was in the inaugural class, which fits.

She’s fully fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese and now works in China.

My favorite part is when she describes Chinese as her “first-and-a-half language.” That’s a great way of describing immersion, you learn the language so young that it’s not really fair to call it a second language, but neither is it your first language if you come from an English-speaking home.


How Language Shapes the Brain

August 14, 2019

From Scientific American

Crucial point: Just as having stronger muscles allows you to lift weights with less effort, increased gray matter in classic executive control regions may make it easier for bilinguals to manage irrelevant information. Bilinguals also have increased white matter in the tracts connecting frontal control areas to posterior and subcortical sensory and motor regions, which may allow them to off-load some of the work to areas that handle more procedural activities. Because the same neural machinery can be used for both linguistic and non-linguistic tasks, multilingual experience can even affect performance in contexts that involve no language at all.

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As Emperor Akihito steps down from the Chrysanthemum Throne in Japan’s first abdication in 200 years, Naruhito officially becomes the new Emperor on May 1, 2019, ushering in a new era called Reiwa (令和; “harmony”). Japan’s tradition of naming eras reflects the ancient belief in the divine spirit of language. Kotodama (言霊; “word spirit”) is the idea that words have an almost magical power to alter physical reality. Through its pervasive impact on society, including its influence on superstitions and social etiquette, traditional poetry and modern pop songs, the word kotodama has, in a way, provided proof of its own concept.

For centuries, many cultures have believed in the spiritual force of language. Over time, these ideas have extended from the realm of magic and mythology to become a topic of scientific investigation—ultimately leading to the discovery that language can indeed affect the physical world, for example, by altering our physiology.

Please read more here.

San Gabriel Valley in California to add Mandarin immersion program

August 9, 2019

From: San Gabriel Valley Tribune

West Covina Unified is set to launch its first Mandarin dual language immersion program at Orangewood Elementary School this fall.

The program will be open to kindergarten students. Enrollment will open March 4, and the program is set to launch in August.

West Covina Unified already offers a Spanish dual language immersion program at Orangewood and Monte Vista elementary schools.

The Mandarin program was approved by the West Covina Unified school board at its Feb. 12 meeting.

“Students who participate in (immersion) programs develop greater cognitive flexibility, increase academic growth and develop a more positive understanding of other cultures,” school board President Daniel C. Monarrez said in a statement. “We are proud to provide our students with another resource to ensure they are prepared to compete in a global economy and thrive in college and their careers.”

Please read more here.

Idaho Mandarin immersion program maxes out its school

August 5, 2019

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From: The Jefferson Star

South Fork Elementary Mandarin Chinese program reaches full capacity

South Fork Elementary School Principal Richard Howard said students can’t get enough of the school’s Mandarin Chinese program.

Six years after its initial inception, the program — one of just 278 in America — has reached full capacity. The program is just one of three immersion programs offered in Idaho (Gateway School of Language and Culture in Boise is the second.) Rigby Middle School started its first Mandarin Chinese program this year due to more students taking Mandarin at South Fork Elementary.

The school district also has Spanish Immersion at five elementary schools (Farnsworth, Harwood, Jefferson, Roberts and Rigby Middle School.)

For South Fork Elementary, the program had 50 to 56 students per class when it started in 2013. During the last three years, the immersion program has reached its 60-student maximum at the kindergarten, first- and second-grade levels — with even a short waiting list, Howard said.

“I think one of the biggest changes is that it is more accepted now,” said Howard, who has a Chinese fan sitting on top of his office cabinet. “The community can see a value in it.”

The program has not only helped diversify the school’s learning environment, but it’s also improved proficiency test scores across the district.

Please read more here.