美国凤凰城Phoenix 报纸最近出来的新闻 (Phoenix 菲尼克斯- 美国亚利桑纳州城市、首府，位于该州中南部盐河北岸)
Excel Ortega, 13, gets help from Sophia Lee with his Chinese caligraphy
Phoenix Arizona Valley schools beginning to add Chinese language option
by Emily Gersema - Mar. 7, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Excel Ortega's brush sways across the page as he writes his name in Chinese calligraphy.
Top to bottom. Left to right. Swish, swish.
"To learn the culture and everything - it's just cool," said Excel, an eighth-grader from Deer Valley's Diamond Canyon Elementary.
Excel and his classmates practiced Chinese calligraphy last month at a cultural event held by Arizona State University's Confucius Institute.
He is among nearly 60 eighth-grade students in a new Mandarin Chinese-language program at their school. The institute provides guidance, while a three-year federal Foreign Language Assistance Program grant worth $650,000 provides funding.
The money pays for two full-time and one part-time Mandarin teacher for Diamond Canyon and Gavilan Peak elementary schools in Anthem.
Diamond Canyon's principal, Mark Oesterle, is the first to admit Chinese is an unusual option for an Arizona school.
"Arizona's not exactly the hotbed of Mandarin culture," he said.
Deer Valley is among several Valley districts that have begun adding Mandarin, the most common form of Chinese, to their foreign-language programs.
The district next year will launch a weekly beginners Chinese program for students in younger grades, kindergarten to sixth.
"They'll get some basic building blocks, like how you say hello, where China is on the map," Oesterle said.
By 2011, Chinese will be offered in Deer Valley Unified's high schools, he said.
Mesa Public Schools was among the districts at the forefront of offering Mandarin Chinese. Three years ago, it launched an after-school Chinese program at Poston Junior High with 11 participants.
The district has since added Chinese language to five schools: Dobson High, Westwood High, Hendrix Junior High, Rhodes Junior High and Mesa Academy, said Assistant Superintendent Suzan DePrez. Students also can take Chinese through the online Mesa Distance Learning Program.
Today, an estimated 390 students in the Mesa district are taking Chinese.
DePrez anticipates a statewide increase in schools that offer Chinese.
"I've had folks come down here from Scottsdale and two or three other school districts, looking at our program and how we started it from a grass-roots effort," DePrez said.
Impact of countries' ties
The popularity of Chinese-language programs has been driven by strengthening U.S. trade and foreign ties with China. Government and industry leaders claim a shortage of Chinese-language speakers for public- and private-sector jobs.
In 2006, the public-policy group Committee for Economic Development argued that the shortage of Americans educated in foreign language hampered efforts to counter terrorist threats and strengthen trade.
The organization noted that very few students study foreign language. Of the few taking foreign-language courses, most were learning Spanish.
The group recommended "expanding the training pipeline at every level of education to address the paucity of Americans fluent in foreign languages, especially critical, less-commonly taught languages."
That year, then-President George W. Bush began the National Language Security Initiative to fund the startup of programs, from kindergarten to college, for "critical languages" - Arabic, Chinese, Hindi and other Indic languages; Turkic languages, an Eastern European family of languages that includes Turkish; and Persian languages such as Farsi.
The College Board also launched an effort.
In 2007, 3,261 students in 433 schools nationwide were taking Advanced Placement Chinese. The program blossomed last year; 835 schools offered AP Chinese, and 5,100 students were involved.
The U.S. Foreign Service and Defense Language institutes rank languages in four categories based on the hours English speakers must spend becoming fluent.
Spanish, French and other Romance languages are considered related to English and are "Category I," requiring up to 24 weeks or 600 hours of study.
But Chinese is Category IV, requiring 44 weeks or 1,100 class hours to learn.
Chinese is challenging in part because it has four tones that affect the meaning of words. Plus, it has more than 10,000 characters for writing. No one knows them all.
"It's really hard," said Madeline Spring, director of ASU's Confucius Institute and Chinese Language Flagship Partner Program. "It takes a highly motivated individual and good student to learn (Chinese)."
Spring and her staff hope to interest more students in taking the language. She plans to create an uninterrupted pipeline from kindergarten to college for students to study Chinese, obtain a degree and use their language skills on the job.
Programs like those at Mesa Public Schools and the Deer Valley district are a first step.
Spring's staff members also have been visiting schools such as McClintock High in Tempe to inform students of opportunities at ASU to learn Chinese while they're still in high school.
Parents, educators agree foreign language is a must
What foreign languages have you encouraged your children to take? Which languages should your school offer? We posed these questions to Valley parents and educators. Here are their answers.
education consultant, Scottsdale father
"Spanish is the language for our sons. Besides the cultural reasons, it is necessary for youth of today - tomorrow's future - to understand the importance of a second language as the world we live in becomes more global."
"My daughter has taken German and Spanish; my son has taken French. I think more options for languages would be great. If we want our kids to be employable in a global economy, don't we want them to be able to speak with people in other countries?"
Chandler mother, educator
"The irony is when Americans travel abroad, the expectation is that someone will speak English. What if all countries adopted similar initiatives on their native language? Second languages open the door for cultural, educational and humanitarian opportunities. Who can be opposed to that?"
"I wish schools would offer Latin, Spanish, Chinese. I've actively encouraged my kids to take the first two, but we don't have the … class availability for the third. I'd love to see (schools) offer some type of immersion environment in the primary/elementary grades."
"I am very happy that my daughter's Montessori school (Caurus Academy) has offered Spanish as part of the regular curriculum for upper elementary grades. I would like to see all schools offer Spanish, French, German and Arabic as either part of their regular curriculum and/or electives."
Renee Sandler Shamblin
I have encouraged my children to take "Spanish and Chinese. Because learning language occurs most effectively and efficiently at an early age, I want to enroll my children in a foreign-language-immersion program that begins in preschool or kindergarten."
"We want our children to learn Spanish because it is the second-most-common language spoken in and around the state of Arizona. We believe Spanish and Chinese should be offered. These are the languages that will give them the opportunity to work internationally and compete in a global economy."