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New Post 16.09.2010 19:01
  ChineseTime
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Preschoolers learn Chinese 

Preschoolers learn Chinese

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Xiaona Jin helped Sofia Martinez count one to five on Friday — nothing too difficult for a 4 year old, except it was in Chinese.

In Sofia’s classroom at Cedar Ridge Elementary in Whitfield County, Ga., everything from the door to the table and the light switches is accompanied by a sticker with the Chinese characters for the object.

Prekindergarten students in Whitfield County Schools are learning about Chinese culture and the Mandarin language through a partnership between Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, and the Confucius Institute at Kennesaw State University.

Georgia was the first in the world last year to use the grant from China’s government to offer Chinese in a state-funded pre-k program, said Mary Mazarky, assistant commissioner for prekindergarten at Bright from the Start. Hall County Schools and West Cobb Preparatory Academy were the first participants.

“Research shows that if you start in an early age and continue, then the children really become fluent in two languages,” said Caroline Woodason, teaching and learning coordinator for Whitfield County Schools.

Whitfield offers the Chinese program in four pre-K classes at Cedar Ridge and Antioch Elementary.

Leticia Liu is one of four exchange teachers in the county and so far, she said, she’s loving it.

“I’m so lucky to be in Whitfield County, everyone is so friendly and helpful,” said the 24-year-old from Anhui Province who is finishing her master’s in linguistics and applied linguistics.

“I was surprised the other day in the playground when a Hispanic girl started to count from one to five on her own,” she said.

One of the main reasons Stephanie McGill sent her 4-year-old daughter, Addison, to Cedar Ridge was because of the Chinese program, she said.

“She’ll come home and say words like table or door in Chinese and tell us what they are,” she said.

“It opens kids’ eyes to [the idea that] everything is not just right here; there’s a whole world out there and everybody is different, and I think that’s so important,” she said.

The program comes at no cost to local taxpayers. The teachers’ salaries, living and transportation expenses as well as classroom supplies is paid for by the Confucius Institute and the Georgia Lottery, said Mazarky.

The goal is to offer the class every year at a higher level, so as to eventually have Chinese instruction all through high school, Woodason said.


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