Program aims to prep pros

Updated: 2016-02-09 14:25

By Lia Zhu in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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A new collaborative project on Chinese-language education in San Francisco recruits students at a younger age to prepare them to be the next generation of global professionals.

The project, led by the Chinese Flagship Program at San Francisco State University, designed two pathways for high school students and community college students to gain admission to the program, a federally funded initiative for undergraduate students seeking careers related to China and the Chinese-speaking world.

All students from the Bay Area with Chinese-language skills either obtained through previous classes or heritage background are eligible for the advanced Chinese courses off ered by the City College of San Francisco at no cost.

"For the first time, students as young as eighth grade are able to attend Chinese classes at college level," said Yalan King, one of the initiators of the project and executive director of the Mandarin Institute, a Chinese language and culture education advocate.

The Concurrent Chinese Language Pathway allows students to continue their study of Chinese in high school while also earning college credit. The credits can be applied both toward the student's high school graduation requirements and transferred into a degree at San Francisco State.

The other pathway provides accelerated introductory classes for novice learners at community colleges.

Chinese has been designated, among other languages, as critical to US international competitiveness. Recruiters regularly visit the San Francisco State Chinese program asking for students with a background in the language, according to Mia Segura, coordinator of the Chinese Flagship Program.

The Concurrent Chinese Language Pathway is expected to produce more students with the ability to accept the positions, and the program's priority is to produce bilingual professionals, Segura said.

The Chinese Flagship Program, one of the nation's 27 critical language centers, was recently awarded a $264,501 grant from the Language Flagship Program, a division of the National Security Education Program, to help set up pathways for Chinese learners.

A pilot class began in the fall 2015 semester with a dozen students. Regular classes will begin in the spring 2016 semester with more than 20 students enrolled. The grant funding runs through fall 2016.

King said the pathway ideas occurred to her thanks to her daughter, a Chinese immersion school student. When she entered middle school, King wondered what would happen to the years of Chinese that she and her classmates had studied.

Unlike the generation of their parents, the students, especially the second generation of Chinese Americans, have themselves realized the signifi cance of learning Chinese language and culture, said King, a Chinese descendant who can't speak Chinese fluently or read and write in Chinese.

She said they interviewed students in their summer programs, and the students believed that Chinese-language skills were critical to their future.

"I don't want my daughter or other kids (to be) like me. My language is very limited in today's world, King said.