SPECIAL NOTE: Wowowowowowowowow! But will it work in the long run? If there is anything I have learned spending 7 years as a visiting professor in China…I learned many lessons but one will not escape my scrutiny…Chinese students learn English from elementary to junior to high to college…and the problem is: because students told me why would they want to speak English when all their neighbors, friends, classmates are Chinese! And so what I saw is the saddest discovery during my first months in the campus: Almost all students, despite years of learning English, cannot speak decent English with me! Partly because of their mindset or attitude (the Old English Language) which said: why would I want to speak English to embarrass myself when all my friends are Chinese! 1.4 billion people in China…there was once a crazy man with a crazy reputation, and he became famous in China for a while because he believed anyone or everyone could speak English, so shouting English was his Modus Operandi…(Li Yang (simplified Chinese: 李阳; traditional Chinese: 李陽; pinyin: Lǐ Yáng; born 1969 in Changzhou, Jiangsu) is a Chinese educator and language instructor. He is the creator of Crazy English, an unorthodox method of teaching English. He claimed to have taught English to more than 20 million people in a decade.) Today we do not hear about him at all…he made tons of money promising Chinese that they could learn English…nothing to show now! But he money and many Chinese, old and young, believed in him…(Check Wikipedia for more about this man!!!)…if Learning English is that easy, Chinese today would have millions of English speaking Chinese…not true! So now the new experiment in USA…trying to Immerse the kids in learning Chinese…will it work? If what happened in China is any indication, I have serious doubts that it will be successful in USA…I am Chinese and even for me, it is difficult to learn Chinese…for one simple reason…I did not have anyone to practice my Chinese at home…that is the core of the problem awaiting the experiments in USA…I am reminded when I was in college about something that happened in America in the 70s and 80s…there were at that time many kinds of training classes for people who wanted to learn about life, about social engagements, about this and that…and they would enroll in these classes, very popular at the time…they would meet in exotic quiet mountains, away from the hustle and bustle of urban chaos…they would learn this and that…in these wonderful weekend retreats…and I remember thinking deeply about the effectiveness of these retreats…the question I raised then and I will raise it now, again: great great great, wonderful time together with people who desired the same thing…maybe how to acquire that piece of mind, how to better social being, etc etc etc…excellent idealistic retreats, but what happened when they returned to the real world, the real world, the real world…because what happened in the real world will undermine everything they had learned at these retreats, because the real world is not the idealistic retreats with people of like minds and souls! The real world is brutal, cruel and unforgiving! And that is why I worry about this new approach to learning a new language: what happens when the kids return to the real world of their families???? And that is why many of this new efforts will not work…because the real families do not speak Mandarin, get it? I suffered that same tragedy, because I had no one to speak Mandarin when I returned home! Good luck to all these new endeavors, and remember, Chinese or Mandarin or Putonghua, is not like English…Mandarin is essentially a Tonal Language, which means every word belongs to one of 4 fixed tones…and that is why many westerners continue to have problem learning Mandarin…sorry to sound so cynical and pessimistic, because I am Chinese and I continue to have problem learning Chinese! Steve USA September 8, 2018 wechat 1962816801 email@example.com blog: https://getting2knowyou-china.com
The American grass-roots school movement immersing children in Mandarin
School districts, parents, and administrators are driving the growth in programmes that teach US primary school pupils to read, write and exercise in another language despite broader anti-China sentiment
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 September, 2018 Simone McCarthy SCMP
Jiahang Li was not prepared for what awaited him at an American kindergarten in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2012.
The Peking University graduate was doing a doctorate in education at the University of Maryland and visiting the public school to see the state’s pioneering Chinese-English dual language immersion programme in action.
Li was surprised when then the children greeted him in perfectly accented Mandarin.
“It was a totally eye-opening experience to see these five and six-year-olds have a conversation with an adult in a different language that is so different from their native one,” said Li, who is now director of the Confucius Institute at Michigan State University.
Li was witnessing the results of a grass-roots trend in American primary education: language immersion programmes in which children spend at least half of each school day taking their regular classes, like maths, science or physical education, entirely in Mandarin.
Despite anti-China rhetoric and wariness, these immersion programmes have flourished in recent years, expanding from a handful of schools in the 1990s to some 300 programmes running across the nation this year. The numbers continue to climb steadily, driven not by federal funding but by parents and administrators pushing for Mandarin immersion in their public schools.
“There is a growing realisation that the US is not the centre of the universe,” said Elizabeth Weise, author of A Parent’s Guide to Mandarin Immersion. “Parents want their children to be able to move freely in the world and that means knowing multiple languages.”
FROM THE GROUND UP
The growth of immersion programmes has coincided with a surge in American interest in learning Mandarin.
In 2000, Mandarin barely registered on a foreign language enrolment survey conducted by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages but today roughly a quarter of a million US primary and secondary students study the language in schools and extracurricular programmes.
Likewise, Mandarin immersion programmes in primary and secondary schools have expanded rapidly in recent years, to make them now the third-biggest of their kind nationwide, after Spanish and French, according to the Centre for Applied Linguistics. According to the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council, programmes in 31 states are teaching young learners in Mandarin.
Much of the momentum for the programmes came from parents, administrators, and local lawmakers across the country, educators said.
“When you are a parent, the bottom line is that you want to get your child prepared, and regardless of your political views, you see the writing on the wall that the world is becoming more interconnected, and it’s important that your child learn another language,” said Eric Peterson, principal of the West County Mandarin School in northern California, which opened last year.
That was what made Kelly Miller decide to enrol her daughter in a dual language immersion kindergarten opening in their Blue Valley school district outside Kansas City.
“We thought, ‘you know what – why wouldn’t we take advantage of this programme and this opportunity?’” Miller said. “We know that Mandarin is spoken by 20 per cent of the planet, and that it’s been deemed a critical-needs language in the US because of all the interaction that’s been happening between Asia and the US and the opportunity for future growth there.”
She said she relied on Google Translate to help with her daughter’s homework but the overall choice had already been a broadening experience, prompting the family to connect with Chinese communities in their area.
Bilingual classrooms were originally a way for students who spoke different languages at home to help each other learn in the classroom. The style of teaching spread after a US Supreme Court decision in a case in 1974 brought by Kinney Kimmon Lau, a pupil in San Francisco who had immigrated from Hong Kong. The court ruled that all American public school students, including San Francisco’s nearly 3,000 Chinese speaking students, should have access to adequate English-language instruction.
The decision paved the way for supplemental language classes for pupils who did not speak English. It also opened the door to dual language immersion programmes.