Chinese language education grows in Delaware

Updated: 2015-01-29 12:58

By Hua Shengdun in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Thomas Friedman's proposition that the world is flat came true for Delaware students when the governor signed on to an overseas study program with a Chinese company.

Governor Jack Markell announced a China summer abroad program for high school students studying Mandarin earlier this month, signing an agreement with Wanxiang Group, China's leading auto parts manufacturer, for students to study at the company's facility in Hangzhou, China.

"Graduates who enter the job market without the ability to speak a world language other than English are at a significant disadvantage," said Markell. "And there is no better way to become immersed in another language and culture than to live it."

Provided is a $450,000 grant from the auto parts enterprise to fund opportunities to study in the east coast Chinese city for up to 24 students and four teachers at the Conrad Schools of Science in 2015 and 2016.

Departing in June, the first group of participants will take daily language classes, visit local schools, participate in cultural activities and tour science and technology companies.

To equip Delaware's students with trans-cultural skills in the global economy competition, Markell put his ideal of shaping "the most bilingual state" into statewide practice with the World Language Expansion initiative in 2012.

"World language capacity is crucial to Delaware in order for the state to maintain and strengthen its domestic economy," Markell wrote in a state document.

Chinese and Spanish were the state's top choices.

With two classroom teachers of English and either Chinese or Spanish, Delaware World Language Immersion Programs offer bilingual education for students from K-12.

In the Chinese program, a native Chinese teacher will teach science, math and Chinese literacy while an English-speaking teacher will handle English, language arts, social studies and "bridge lessons" to make sure the students are picking up the concepts covered in Chinese.

Fifty first-grade students at Allen Frear Elementary School spend half their day learning in Chinese.

Every morning, Xue Qin, a Mandarin Chinese teacher, teaches a new word to the class.

Daily expressions such as "Good morning", "Hello", "Goodbye", "Thank you" and "You're welcome" are introduced to the students.

"If you ask the kids, 'Does your teacher speak English?', most of them would probably say no," said principal Tara Faircloth. "She never speaks English in front of them at all."

Same with the students until the third grade, and by then they'll be fluent, Faircloth said.

"We love the program," she said. "It's really amazing to see how talented first graders are being immersed in a second language and truly understanding it and learning it."

"It is amazing to walk through the halls this year and hear five-year-olds saying 'ni hao' (hello) and 'xie xie' (thank you)," says Sherry Kijowski, principal at McIlvaine Early Childhood Center, the state's first Chinese language immersion program done in conjunction with the Confucius Institute at the University of Delaware.

About 285 children applied for 100 spots in the Chinese education program last year, Kijowski said, as more parents figured out "the benefits of knowing another language".

Sheng Yang in Washington contributed to this story.

 Chinese language education grows in Delaware

Students wearing traditional Chinese hat are painting and cutting papers in the Chinese Immersion class in Delaware's Ralph McIlvaine Early Childhood Center, a Chinese language learning program by the State from 2012. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily USA 01/29/2015 page2)