Monthly Archives: May 2013

Mom, teacher publishes book on Chinese crafts

I’m not much of a crafter, but here’s a little something for the scores of Utah parents who are: a book on Chinese crafts created by the adoptive mother of a Chinese girl.

It contains more than 100 crafting ideas, many of them tied to Chinese cultural festivals and events. Click here for a sneak peek at its contents, or to purchase the book.

A brief description of the author, from her blog:

“Jennifer DeCristoforo is an author, illustrator, teacher and crafter living  on the Maine coast.  Although China is across the globe from her home, it is always in her heart.  When she adopted her baby daughter in 2003 from Jiangxi Province she became increasingly fascinated with Chinese culture and thinking of how to integrate it into her family life.

Even though Jen had traveled to Asia for business, she now saw China through new eyes and on a deeply personal level.  As her daughter has grown, Jen has applied her ideas and artwork inspired by Chinese culture to all sorts of projects, teaching opportunities and celebrations. Then one day she realized all this material could be the start of a book that others could enjoy and use as a resource to bring more Chinese culture into their own children’s lives.

Jen holds a B.F.A. in Illustration from California College of Arts and Crafts and an M.A. in Art Education from Rhode Island School of Design. She has also been a certified art teacher in the Maine public schools. Her artwork has been used for educational textbooks, gift products and stationery. As an accomplished illustrator, Jen often whipped up just what she wanted for this book when she couldn’t find or take the perfect photo! “

Canada’s immersion graduates grow up and raise bilingual kids

The Globe and Mail offers this fascinating look at the coming of age of Canada’s French immersion program, which took root in the 70s but saw dramatic growth over the past decade. Some education officials surmise they’re seeing the next immersion wave – children of immersion graduates who want to pass bilingualism onto their kids.

Imagine the ripple effect of Utah’s immersion program 30 years from now. Will bilingualism be the new norm? And how will this change cultural customs and our understanding of the world? What new opportunities will be opened to residents of the state?

Highlights from the Globe and Mail:

“A 1990 study of an early wave of French immersion graduates in Saskatchewan found that more than 80 per cent said they wanted their children to follow in their footsteps by pursuing immersion.

“We’re now seeing a generational transition,” Mr. Rothon said. “It hasn’t really been documented yet. Once we start seeing its extent we should start to see it influencing government policy.”

Mr. Rothon said the children of immersion are creating something like a new linguistic category. They go home to environments where one or two parents are capable of speaking French with them and helping with their homework. It’s not the same as living in an easily defined anglophone or francophone environment, yet it still represents a change from earlier generations. By choosing to continue with French immersion into a second generation, these families are saying, “This is part of how we grew up and this is who we are as Canadians,” Mr. Rothon said.”

Monolingualism is the illiteracy of the 21st century!

A funny anecdote about Utah’s own World Language and Dual Immersion Specialist Gregg Roberts.

Mandarin Immersion Parents Council

“Monolingualism is the illiteracy of the 21st century!”

This is my new favorite quote. It’s from Gregg Roberts, World Languages and Dual Immersion Specialist, Utah State Office of Education. He was speaking at this year’s Asia Society Chinese Language Conference in Boston in April. The panel was on “Equity and Access in Chinese Language Education.” You can listen to it here, as well as all the other plenary sessions that were filmed.

I think Gregg’s quote belongs on the back of every single t-shirt that immersion programs create.

[Here’s a little Photoshop magic created by an Oregon immersion parent….}


View original post

How Can I Help My Child Learn Mandarin When I Don’t Speak It?

Often parents worry about how they will be able to help their children learn how to speak Chinese when they themselves don’t speak it. It can feel as daunting as hiking the complete length of the great wall of China!

But don’t worry! You don’t have to speak any Mandarin for your children to succeed. At the same time, you can provide your children with time to practice their Chinese during the school week. Just as skills like reading English and doing math need to be reinforced at home, so do the Chinese skills your child is learning. This does not need to be incredibly time-consuming. Fifteen to thirty minutes of Chinese time each school night can give your child the reinforcement he or she needs. The following are suggestions of how non-Chinese speaking parents can help create this Chinese time for their children.

1. Support your child in doing any Chinese homework they have. For example if s/he has a take home reading book listen to your child read it. If your child has spelling words, have them write the words two or three times each night. If your child doesn’t have homework, ask your teacher for some, or use some of the below resources. 15-30 minutes of Chinese practice at home can definitely help your child learn Chinese.

2. Currently, some schools use a Singapore reading curriculum. You access their website and have your children read you the books they are studying in school. The website can be a little difficult to navigate because it’s in Chinese, but don’t be intimidated – it really isn’t that hard, especially because your child can probably figure it out. If that fails, contact your child’s teacher.

3. Some students use Better Chinese. Your school may provide free or discounted membership; it is typically about $25.00 a year. Having your children read you the online stories can be very helpful for them to reinforce their reading skills.

4. Math flashcards that children can use to remember math vocabulary. (English translation here).

5. Digital flashcards based on the key vocab words are available to help your children reinforce their skills. First grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade. Notice that there are some games that can be played. Some are harder than others, “Scatter” is one that many children will enjoy.

6. Practice reading with Chinese Immersion teachers from Canada reading Chinese books.

7. Let your children watch Chinese video clips. For example, they can watch Dora the Explorer or  Spongebob Squarepants (note – both of those links are to YouTube-like sites that display ads. Putting the display to full-screen often eliminates the ad. Both of those links are for individual episodes; additional episodes appear underneath). Younger learners might enjoy Sesame Street or Thomas the Train in Chinese. Several other videos, songs, etc. are linked here.

Dora Chinese

8. Connect with other parents of immersion students and work together. Get connected if you aren’t already.

9. Help your children type in Chinese. This YouTube video explains how to make it so that you can type Chinese characters on your computer. Some children will have fun typing letters to each other using characters. For those who like pinyin, this macro can help you quickly transform a word like “wo3” into “wǒ.”

10. If you have a smart device, get some apps for your kids to play with. Speak and Learn Pro (iOS only) works like Rosetta stone, but much cheaper ($9.99). Should be a fun review for most students and a good way to reinforce learning.

The main thing is to keep on trying — a consistent effort to help your child spent 15-30 minutes a day having fun with Chinese at home can pay big dividends.

What tools/ideas have you found to be successful?

The struggle to achieve literacy in Mandarin

Literacy is the ability to read AND write in a language. But often schools focus predominantly on reading, neglecting critical writing skills.

There’s debate in academic circles on how best to achieve literacy – in traditional and immersion classrooms. Achieving literacy in Chinese, a non-alphabetic language with thousands of characters, adds degrees of difficulty.

Here’s one school’s idea, a calligraphy program that helps students engage with the characters.

Everyone learns differently. But as a professional writer, I believe people learn to write by writing. Following are some cute tutorials on Chinese characters that my son’s teacher shared with us this year. Give them a try at home with your kids.

Another idea pioneered by one of our council representatives, Vanessa Shiba at Lone Peak, was to create a pen pal program between two immersion schools. 

Chinese Characters:

The Story of Chinese Character : 人

The Story of Chinese Character : 大

The Story of Chinese Character : 小

The Story of Chinese Character : 日

The Story of Chinese Character : 月

The Story of Chinese Character : 天

The Story of Chinese Character : 口

The Story of Chinese Character : 看

The Story of Chinese Character : 水

The Story of Chinese Character : 心

The Story of Chinese Character : 木

The Story of Chinese Character : 手

New Chinese summer camp

Here’s another opportunity to keep your kids’ skills fresh over the summer.

This half-day summer camp just so happens to be run by one of our council reps – AnnElise Xiao, the parent who started Chinese Corner!

Week-long sessions are held at the Dimple Dell Recreation and Fitness Center. Each week will have a theme. For example: One week we will talk about Animals and body parts M-Th. Then on Friday we will go visit the Zoo. The next week we will talk about food and on Friday visit a Chinese restaurant. The camp would start at 9 a.m. and run until noon. A sample day would look something like this:

9:00 Arrival/introductions/ self-start activity
9:15 group activity/ sing songs/ vocab review
9:45 lesson on new words and grammar.
10:30 snack & outside Activity
11:00 pair practice activity/ story time
11:30 cultural activity – Game or craft
12:00 clean-up/ go home

See “chinese summer school” link below for more information.

*Although I am listed as an instructor, the class will be taught by Linda Sun, a native speaker and trained elementary school teacher.


chinese summer school

Mark you calendars for the Utah Asian Festival

Come celebrate the cultures of Asia, as Utah’s longest-running ethnic festival enters its 36th year.

Come and enjoy the food and see the performances. There will also be vendors, kite-making demonstrations and free activities for the whole family.

Admission is free and open to the public. Make sure to join us!

Please visit our website at for more info

36th Annual Utah Asian Festival
Saturday, June 8, 2013  10:00am until 7:00pm
South Towne Expo Center
9575 South State Street, Sandy, Utah 84070

Corporate America rushes to capitalize on immersion programs

Just stumbled across this press release hawking a new app for language learners – a learning tool to supplement the curricula of immersion programs around the world.

Sounded interesting. Then I law the introductory price of $3.99.

Seems high considering most apps sell for $1 – many are free. Even at that price many developers turn a profit, (think Angry Birds).

Made me wonder if the education market is ripe for price inflation. After all, we parents are a captive audience, hungry for anything to give our kids a competitive edge. Then I saw this Deseret News story about high-priced apps in the $50 to $999 range – pricing schemes that appear to have no rhyme or reason.

Do you have a favorite app you use at home with your kids? Share! Or check out our resources page where you’ll find free online and other tools to help your Mandarin learner.

Boston, Ma (PRWEB) May 06, 2013

Noyo, an educational software company based in Boston, is pleased to announce the release of Noyo Immersion language apps in the iTunes store. With versions in Spanish, the immersion-only version of their powerful vocabulary-building iPad app.

This engaging learning tool is designed to teach vocabulary and supplement the curricula of immersion programs in classrooms around the world. Following the educational principles of language immersion programs, Noyo Immersion apps features lively graphics, built-in assessment questions, and professional audio and content text exclusively in the target language.

“This new version allows educators to use our apps in an immersive language-learning setting,” said co-creator Mike Sullivan, who serves as Chief Learning Officer of Noyo. “We are thrilled to bring Noyo’s exciting, innovative vocabulary-building system to language immersion classrooms.”

Noyo Immersion was developed specifically with educators from Spanish immersion schools and online Spanish immersion programs in mind, providing them with a tool to engage students and enrich lessons taught exclusively in Spanish. We are new expanding these immersion only apps to French, Portuguese, English and Chinese.

Like earlier versions of Noyo, Noyo Immersion links vocabulary words to entertaining images and high-quality audio to provide a strong educational foundation for language learning. A talented team of graphic design artists brings vocabulary to life with comical characters and amusing scenarios, and each word or phrase is voiced by a native speakers. The app offers eight targeted vocabulary units, each with its own set of assessment questions for maximally effective learning.

All text and audio in the vocabulary-building and assessment slides are presented in the target language for an immersion experience.

Noyo was created through the combined vision of popular middle school teacher Sullivan and innovative mobile software entrepreneur Ted Chan, who specializes in mobile user interface design. Noyo Spanish Immersion follows from their vision of quality, affordable language learning software that fits the needs of students and educators.

“We created an immersion version of our beginner vocab app as a direct result of feedback we received from Spanish teachers in Arizona,” said Micaya Clymer, Product Manager for Noyo. “We read and respond to every email we receive, and we’re hoping this will lead to even more awesome feedback and suggestions from educators. Tell us what you need, and we’ll try to make it!”

Features of Noyo Immersion apps include:

-Over 1800 vocabulary words and phrases, each reinforced by supporting audio and visual representation

-All vocabulary items presented in target language only, for an immersion experience

-194 custom-illustrated scenes, packed with friendly characters and amusing scenarios

-Audio by a professional voice artist who is a native speaker

-Built-in target language-only assessment questions at the end of each unit

-Intuitive, user-friendly navigation system

-8 targeted units, featuring vocabulary related to:

-The City
-House and Home

Noyo language apps can be purchased for an introductory price of $3.99. There is always a 50% volume discount for educators who have iPad programs at their schools.

Read the full story at

Read more:

Immersion teacher among educators to win $10,000 Huntsman prize

As parents we often forget to express gratitude to the educators who run the English side of Utah’s language immersion programs. These teachers take on responsibility for double the typical number of students with no extra pay. They make sure our kids, as they struggle to learn a new language, don’t fall behind in reading or math. And, as this story in  The Salt Lake Tribune illustrates, they do it with “vigor and confidence.”

Thanks to parent Valenka Leavitt for nominating Brigham City educator Suzanne Moss for a $10,000 Huntsman prize.

From The Tribune:

“She teaches in a rural area of Utah and is often faced with many challenges … But instead of getting burned out and worn down she takes on more responsibility despite these precarious times.” Although her role as the English teacher for Foothill’s new Chinese Immersion program comes with no extra pay and a slew of new challenges, “she has taken on this new responsibility with vigor and confidence.” — Valenka Leavitt, parent

Language immersion can boost student achievement

This Fox News article disproves a popular myth about language immersion – namely, that immersion programs take money and time away from English instruction, thereby hurting immigrant students by delaying their acquisition of English.

In fact, immersion programs don’t cost more to run than traditional classrooms. AND they can help struggling learners and boost school test scores, as the following description of an impoverished school in Los Angeles shows:

“Baldwin Park is a city in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley whose overall population is 80 percent Latino, 4 percent white. The median household income is about $51,000. In the Baldwin Park Unified School District, more than 90 percent of their kids are eligible for free lunches. With high rates of poverty and high numbers of minorities whose primary language is not English, it is the kind of school district you shouldn’t be surprised to see on a list of underperforming schools.

But the schools are not underperforming. Some have been so successful — especially their schools that with a language immersion program— they have been the focal point of reports on the benefits of bilingual education.

Fueling interest in the district is a report in Education Trust West, a student advocacy group focused on the academic performance of low-income and minority students. Baldwin Park was ranked highest in the state with a letter grade of B because their low-income and students posted increases in their state exams, as measured by a point system called the Academic Performance Index. In addition, the difference between the API of Latino students (94 percent of the district’s population) and white students (2 percent) was less than 30 points, the only school listed in the report’s top 10 to have such a small gap.

Five of the district’s 13 elementary schools, along with two of the middle- and junior high schools (of four) and one high school (of two) in the district offer language immersion programs. In California, the goal is that each school should score 800 on their API. In their elementary schools that offer Spanish immersion courses, three scored above 800 in 2011.

And in a state plagued by financial difficulties, the scores have kept improving even as revenue streams dry up, a Hechinger Report noted. In 2010-2011, the school received $400,000 less in economic income aid (bringing in $3.3 million) because the fund for low-income students decreased by 5 percent. In 2011-2012, a funding stream for low-income learners was eliminated, cutting the district’s budget by more than $220,000.”