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New Post 27.01.2010 15:18
  ChineseTime
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Chinese Language Classes Boom in USA. 

Chinese Language Classes Boom in  USA.

From about.com

In 2004, Chinese-American rapper Jin Au-Yeung remarked in his single "Learn Chinese" that the American public would be learning the language of his elders. Turns out Jin wasn't lying. The New York Times reports that, while public schools have largely stopped teaching French and German language classes, Chinese classes, along with the mainstay Spanish courses, are booming.

Instruction in Chinese has risen to 4% from 1% between 1997 and 2008 in the nation's middle and high schools, according to a survey by the Center for Applied Linguistics. Accordingly, the number of students taking the Advanced Placement test in Chinese has spiked as well, edging out German as the third most-tested A.P. language, after Spanish and French, the Times reported.

So, what's responsible for the rise in Chinese instruction in American schools, even those located in areas with no discernible Chinese community? The Times attributes the trend to parents, students and educators recognizing China's emergence as a world power. Knowing Chinese may open doors for students later in life. Moreover, the Chinese government is actually sending teachers worldwide to help students around the globe master the language. Lastly, the Times reports that a joint program by the College Board and Hanban, a language council affiliated with the Chinese Education Ministry, has sent hundreds of American educators to visit schools in China since 2006. This has influenced them to start Chinese programs after returning to the U.S.

I applaud the move by American educators to include Chinese language instruction in public schools. In November, I had the opportunity to teach fourth graders at a school where the predominantly Latino student body is already well versed in English and Spanish. Yet, thanks to school administrators, these bilingual children are trying their hand at a third language--Chinese. If they continue to be instructed in the language, they could very well emerge from high school trilingual. This would put these children on par with those I've met from Europe and Africa who can speak multiple languages with ease.

Sadly, children who grew up in the U.S. during a time when "English Only" instruction was advocated because of xenophobia and racism missed out on this opportunity. This is unfortunate, not only because those who speak multiple languages will likely have a broader range of employment opportunities when they grow up, but also because multilingualism builds bridges between cultures and, thus, is a positive for race relations.


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