Monthly Archives: August 2013

Entrepreneur/parents raise cash for Mandarin school

I wonder how many venture capitalists we have in Utah who also happen to have kids enrolled in Chinese immersion. If you’re out there, here’s a nifty fundraising idea featured by Fortune/ CNN:

“A group of 20 Silicon Valley VCs are taking bids for lunch dates, with proceeds going to Presidio Knolls School , a startup Chinese immersion school based in San Francisco. So it’s really more about charity than narcissism, but there clearly are some bragging rights involved. And I wouldn’t even be surprised if certain limited partners keep tabs on which VCs did (and didn’t) garner high bids.”

Illinois now providing bilingual instruction to all preschoolers

Illinois this year becomes the first state to provide bilingual education to all preschoolers who don’t speak fluent English. Here’s a fascinating ground-level look inside one of the state’s classrooms by the Chicago Tribune.

“With his navy slacks and dress shirt still creased from his mother’s iron, 4-year-old Edenzoe Diaz reported for his first day of preschool to learn his letters in English and Spanish.

He got his first lesson as he stepped into the classroom. Teacher Tania Miranda asked her newest student to copy the letters of his name onto an attendance sheet.

“Primero, esta letra,” Miranda said, pointing to the “E” on his nametag.

Edenzoe speaks no English, his mother said. But in this bilingual classroom at Chicago’s Edwards Center for Young Learners — a public school in the shadow of Midway Airport — he will receive the same support that for years has been offered starting in kindergarten.

As the school year begins, Illinois becomes the first state to mandate that public schools with preschool programs offer a bilingual education to 3- and 4-year-olds who don’t speak English.

Under the new regulations, school officials must determine whether students speak another language at home and measure how well they speak and understand English. They then must offer those who need it a seat in a bilingual preschool class, where they study basic academic skills in their native language as they learn English.”

A must-read for all immersion parents

This handbook from the Asia Society may be a familiar resource to many parents of Mandarin learners. But considering it’s the start of a new school year with a fresh batch of students and parents, I wanted to draw attention to it again.

It’s a must-read primer on the best models for Mandarin immersion. It helped me understand what’s expected of our children – and, in turn, what to expect from our schools.  Four years into Mandarin immersion with my oldest son, I’m still on a steep learning curve. But this handbook is a nice place to start.

Here’s a teaser:

“Over the last four decades, immersion programs in many languages have seen slow but steady growth in U.S. schools. Most immersion programs offered European languages, with a small number in other languages. Much of what is known about immersion’s effectiveness has been gleaned from these programs. Their experiences provide useful guidance about options for program models, teaching strategies, literacy development, and time allocation for both the immersion language and English. While we know a great deal about what works in immersion and why, we are still discovering the aspects of this kind of education that can be appropriately applied to Chinese instruction.

Prior to 2000, in the U.S. there were fewer than ten public or private elementary school immersion programs in either Standard Chinese or Cantonese. They led the way for the approximately seventy new programs now operating, most of which are still in their infancy. The pioneer programs have addressed the same issues that now face their newer counterparts, exploring solutions to common questions such as the following:

  • Which type of program model is most suited to Chinese immersion: Most or all of the school day taught in Mandarin, a fifty-fifty division between Chinese and English, or some other distribution of time?
  • What are the qualifications for teaching in Chinese immersion? Where can we find highly qualified teachers? What does high-quality Chinese immersion instruction look like?
  • What curricula and instructional materials are already available for Chinese immersion?
  • How might we approach literacy development in Chinese?

The teachers and administrators from the long-standing Chinese immersion programs generously shared their expertise and resources with one another as well as with the newly emerging programs around the country. They answer numerous inquiries made by email or phone, they cheerfully host visitors, and they network with one another and collaborate on important projects.”


Utah welcomes 22 new Chinese guest teachers

I had the pleasure to take part in a cultural exchange to welcome our guest teachers from China.  The University of Utah’s Confucius Institute asked if a group of parents would be willing to host Sunday dinner for two to three teachers. The idea was to show them American “micro-culture” in all its messed up glory. The Hanban, a division of the Ministry of Education in China – working with the Confucius Institute and College Board – furnished Utah with 22 guest teachers this year. In total there are upwards of 40 Hanban teachers in our schools, more than anywhere else in the country.

Helping them acclimate and feel welcome is a big job shouldered by the state, school districts and the Confucius Institute, which, according to its newsletter, “logged a lot of miles” on its bus this August taking teachers on a tour-de-Utah. They visited ski resorts, the Mormon temple and state Capitol, among other places, for a taste of our geography, climate, food and government.

Frankly, I’m not sure what they learned from their visit to my home. I couldn’t stop peppering them with questions about China! The three women were gracious guests, each from different provinces. Two were headed to teach in Washington County, one in St. George and another in Hurricane. The third will teach in Layton. They left family, including children, to be here. And they all seemed to have a keen sense for adventure, which is good (they’ll need it!).

I only wish we were given more time to get to know one another. Here’s wishing them a fulfilling and successful school year!





Flash cards for grades 1-3

Immersion parents are an innovative and busy bunch. One of our parents in the Jordan School District created these flash cards for use by students in grades 1-3.

On our “Resources” page you’ll find more, free online flashcards carefully tailored to Utah’s immersion curriculum: First grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade.



Taiwan folk music group to perform in Bountiful


The Taiwan folk music ensemble will perform at Bountiful’s summer fest/ folk festival tonight and tomorrow, Aug. 9 and 10. It’s not clear from the schedule when they’ll grace the stage, but free performances by artistic groups from around the world run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.  The event is free, fun for all ages and there’s no shortage of international street food for purchase.

Where: The address is approximately 400 North 200 West in Bountiful. (Bountiful 400 North exit, then go east for two blocks)

Click here for a full schedule of events.

Language immersion: making the case for all-day kindergarten

Chiming in on national press coverage of Utah’s Mandarin immersion program, this Provo Herald guest editorial raises an interesting question.

Citing from an article in Time Magazine, Duane Jeffrey, emeritus professor of biology at Brigham Young University, points to research findings “frightening to an old codger” like him:  “The sensitivity for learning languages peaks at about 9 months of life.”

If this is true, why don’t all of Utah’s immersion programs start in kindergarten – or preschool, for that matter?

The answer, I’m sure, is multifaceted but has something to do with the fact that Utah doesn’t fund universal, all-day kindergarten. Could immersion programs be the thing that convinces lawmakers to rethink that policy? I wonder.