Chinese Language Education in America: The Craze Continues

I continue to find reports from local newspapers in municipalities all over the United States, writing about the local Chinese (and sometimes Arabic, Russian, and Japanese) language programs the local schools are piloting.

Here’s a recent article from Frederick, MD: A New Way of Speaking Things

A 3 week program for middle schoolers, taught by native Chinese speakers, involving some cultural instruction in addition to a bit of language instruction. From the article:

The first summer classes in Frederick County were given in 2005 during the Maryland Summer Center, with the help of a Maryland Department of Education grant.

Frederick County was the first to offer world languages, Murphy said.

This year’s program was open to students of all levels, extended to three weeks and expanded to include space for five local native Chinese speakers who may eventually become language teachers.

The teaching participants were paid $25 per hour and worked with Frederick County world language resource teachers, who helped them organize class plans and also provided feedback.

“I’m hoping to show people in Frederick County that Chinese is a viable language,” Murphy said.

I applaud efforts like this. And with that applause, I add my observation that there is still a strong need for expertise in Chinese language instruction and cross-cultural communications for many of these programs. Contrary to popular belief, there are NOT hordes of qualified Chinese teachers, administrators of Chinese language programs, and curriculum developers for such roaming the school districts of the United States.

These are early efforts, and are increasing over time. The district the article writes about seems to have its act together. I’ll be watching with interest as Chinese language instruction becomes more expert, professional, and effective in the United States.

Heck, the Oracle (my wife) and I would be happy to pitch in and help with a local Chinese language program in the States sometime down the road.

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4 Comments

Filed under Chinese Language Instruction, Culture, Language, The Learning Chinese Craze

4 responses to “Chinese Language Education in America: The Craze Continues

  1. Jason

    Hi Jay. Sorry if this is the wrong place but I couldn’t think of a better way to get in contact with you. Like many people, I found your site when I was researching how to learn Chinese. I read your post on how long it takes. I have some experience with Mandarin and Cantonese; My family is Chinese but I was born in the US and never picked it up. I have some experience with how things are supposed to sound, but I’d like more formal training. I have the Pimsleur system, but I just read that it is the Beijing dialect and some of the vocabulary is unusual. I like your idea of starting at an elementary school level and work my way up . This is why I’m writing this. Do you have any suggestions for specific elementary school through junior high texts and where I could obtain them? Also, ideally for me, I’m looking for a website that would have basic conversations with english and mandarin, with Chinese characters and explanations of their semantics and audio links to their pronunciation. I haven’t come across anything yet. Thanks in advance.

    • truettblack

      Jason,

      My name is Truett, not Jay.

      I got my elementary texts in Taiwan. I know you could still buy them a few years ago, though the place where I bought mine is no longer operating.

      You have to decide if you want to study traditional or simplified characters, or both, and then go from there.

      Best of luck,

      Jay-Truett

  2. Jason

    Truett,
    Ok, thanks. Sorry about the name thing. One other question. I was going through some vocabulary and I came across shi (as in affirmative). I knew from experience that it’s pronounced as “Sher” rather than what it reads in english, which is “She” or “Shy”. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other cases like this, but I can’t rely on my experience all the time. Did you ever come across this problem and if so how is it addressed? Thanks again.

    • truettblack

      No worries about the name. I get things that are far worse in some of the comments (the ones I delete for rudeness)! LOL.

      The only way to make sure you know how to pronounce words correctly is to listen to native speakers. Ideally, you have opportunities to speak with people who speak Mandarin with a clear, native accent (these could be people from anywhere in China or Taiwan–there are lots of good speakers and lots of bad ones; hopefully, you’ll know the difference). If that doesn’t work, use the magic of Youtube or find something through Chinese Pod. Chinese Pod has lots of great resources.

      Best of luck,

      Truett

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