North Carolina: Chinese is state's fastest growing foreign language course
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Mon Jun 9 15:22:03 UTC 2008
More students learning Chinese in school
Chinese is state's fastest growing foreign language course
By Justin Vick
jvick at independenttribune.com
Sunday, June 8, 2008
A.L. Brown High School will offer Mandarin Chinese classes in the fall
through a distance learning partnership with the North Carolina School
of Science and Math in Durham. About a dozen Kannapolis students are
enrolled to learn how to speak, read and write Chinese. The honors
course will convene at A.L. Brown's Cyber Campus, where students will
interact with a teacher via videoconference. "This will help give our
students a greater awareness of world cultures," said A.L. Brown
principal Debra Morris.
More students in North Carolina's public schools are being exposed to
Chinese as China's economy continues to strengthen.
"Chinese is seen as an important language for the 21st century," said
Ann Marie Gunter, second language consultant for the N.C. Department
of Public Instruction. "The business world needs more speakers of
languages like Chinese to be competitive in the global economy."
While enrollment in Chinese courses lags behind Spanish, French,
Latin, German and Japanese, it quadrupled in 2006-07, making it the
fastest growing language offered in North Carolina, Gunter said. Most
Chinese language programs are offered in the state's largest school
systems, such as Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Guilford, Union, Wake and
Winston-Salem/Forsyth. Distance learning allows smaller school
districts like Kannapolis City Schools to offer them as well.
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction has pooled federal grant
money to fund five online Mandarin Chinese courses: Chinese I, II,
III, IV and Advanced Placement.
These courses are being developed by LEARN NC, a program of UNC-Chapel
Hill's School of Education, and will be offered through the North
Carolina Virtual Public School.
Mandarin Chinese I was piloted during the 2007-08 year, reaching 33
students in 18 high schools across the state, Gunter said, noting more
than 50 students have enrolled for fall.
She said future installments of the course are scheduled to be offered
online by fall 2010.
Efforts are also under way to introduce languages like Chinese
earlier, Gunter said, so children are bilingual, biliterate and
The State Board of Education has passed a policy allowing middle
schools to offer foreign language courses for graduation credit.
And some elementary schools are beginning to offer programs in which
instruction alternates between English and foreign languages.
Other Cabarrus schools see rewards to Chinese programs
A.L. Brown isn't the first school to teach Chinese in Cabarrus County.
Cannon School in Concord and Carolina International School in
Harrisburg have offered Chinese courses for two years.
Weimin Yuan said Cannon's Upper School students began enrolling in his
Chinese language course because of its novelty.
He's proud when students of the Concord private school begin to
appreciate the language and continue their studies of Chinese culture
Yuan said learning the language can be difficult for younger teens,
who enter Upper School a little intimidated and not as experienced in
"Many of the Chinese syllables and sounds need you to turn your lips
to certain shapes or roll your tongue," he said. "They are not
accustomed to doing that. Even more strange are the characters."
Students are exposed to reading, writing and speaking skills in
Chinese I and II. They learn about 150 Chinese characters, in addition
to China's culture, geography and history.
Cannon will begin offering Chinese III in the fall, Yuan said.
Chinese is also offered in fifth and sixth grades as part of Cannon's
Foreign Language Exploration program, in which all students are
exposed to at least one quarter of Chinese, French and Spanish.
Children at Carolina International School are exposed to Chinese as
early as kindergarten through arts and crafts activities like paper
cutting and folding.
Jennifer Ju applied for a position in the charter school's Exceptional
Children department after relocating from California three years ago.
But director Richard Beall offered her a job launching the Chinese
language program instead.
"I hesitated at first, because I didn't know how much people would
really be interested," Ju said.
Now, she typically hears youth of all ages greet her in Chinese
throughout the day - even at the most unlikely of places, like the
• Contact Justin Vick: 704-789-9138
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