Monthly Archives: November 2013

Mandarin immersion schools in the United States in 2014

From sister-organization in San Francisco -and Elizabeth Weise – who is writing a guidebook for parents of Mandarin learners…an interesting analysis of the rise of immersion programs.

Mandarin Immersion Parents Council

White boardBy Elizabeth Weise

Excerpted from the forthcoming A Parent’s Guide to Mandarin Immersion

As foreign language teachers from around the nation gather in Orlando for the annual American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages convention, I wanted to post an analysis of the statistics I have gathered for Mandarin immersion programs in the United States going into 2014. 

U.S. schools that are home to Mandarin immersion programs come in all shapes and sizes and are scattered across the nation. There’s Alice Boucher World Language Academy in Lafayette, La., Dutchtown Elementary in Hampton, Ga., and Monte Vista Elementary in South Jordan, Utah. You can spend nothing but your energy at Doss Elementary in Austin, Texas or over $40,000 a year at Avenues: The World School in New York City. Your child can learn Mandarin at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Cambridge, Mass., San Francisco’s José Ortega Elementary, or Cherokee…

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Portland opens Mandarin preschool for low-income kids

Confucius Institutes – we have one at the University of Utah – are great resources for immersion programs. They help build curriculum, sponsor cultural events and work with the Hanban, a division of the Ministry of Education in China, to furnish scores of immersion programs with veteran, native-speaking teachers.

Working with a Confucius Institute three Head Start chapters in Portland are now doing Mandarin immersion, according to the Oregonian. Head Start programs are government-subsidized preschools for low-income children.

An excerpt from the Oregonian article:
“These three Albina Head Start classes, at the McCormack/Matthews Center in North Portland, are the tiniest representations of the Confucius Institute, with teachers paid and sent over by the Chinese government to spread the study of the language. There are 400 Confucius classrooms around the country – more in Oregon than anyplace else – teaching Chinese in elementary and secondary schools.
And in one Head Start program.
‘China has a saying,’ says [one of the teachers] Jiang, ‘from three years old, you can see your future.'”

Utah schools rely on dozens of Hanban teachers. But there is no shortage of supply. Perhaps this is a good option for schools wishing to start immersion kindergarten programs.

Why one mom chose Chinese over Spanish

In Utah parents have their choice of four language immersion programs: Spanish, French, Portuguese and Chinese. I took the shotgun approach and entered my kids in all available lotteries.

But I asked myself, if they win entrance to more than one program, what will I choose? As a journalist I can attest to the importance of knowing Spanish in a country with a growing Hispanic population that is sorely underrepresented by mainstream media. On the other hand, China is of special political and economic importance – and Mandarin is reportedly harder to learn, so the earlier the better.

In the end I am pleased my children are learning Mandarin – much like this mother, a self-described “Texican,” who picked Chinese over Spanish.

Curious how other parents feel? Are they happy with Chinese, or do they have regrets? Is it wise as a policy for Utah invest more in Mandarin programs than in other languages?

More proof of the mulitple benefits of multilingualism

From USA Today
“The latest evidence that speaking more than one language is a very good thing for our brains comes from a study finding dementia develops years later in bilingual people than in people who speak just one language.

The study, conducted in India and published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, is not the first to reach this conclusion. But it is the largest and comes with an intriguing new detail: The finding held up even in illiterate people — meaning that the possible effect is not explained by formal education.”

From the Economist:
“Many multilinguals report different personalities, or even different worldviews, when they speak their different languages. …
Benjamin Lee Whorf, an American linguist who died in 1941, held that each language encodes a worldview that significantly influences its speakers. Often called “Whorfianism”, this idea has its sceptics, including The Economist, which hosted a debate on the subject in 2010. But there are still good reasons to believe language shapes thought.”

Architect of Utah’s dual immersion program touts its success

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, one of the architects of Utah’s dual immersion language program (along with former Gov. Jon Huntsman), penned this opinion piece in the Grand Forks Herald.

Touting the program’s success, he says, “For an additional annual cost of just $33 per student, tens of thousands of Utah students are becoming truly bilingual.”