Category Archives: What can parents do?

What happens with immersion in high school?

Some people have expressed confusion about what happens to dual language immersion students when they get to high school. There have been some very exciting developments over the past year and the purpose of this post is to explain the Utah State plan. We’ll discuss AP tests, college language courses taken in high school (for dual credit), and how this will impact Regents Scholarships (spoiler: it’s really good news!).

First – what is the secondary pathway for dual language immersion (DLI) in Utah?


Ideally students in 7th and 8th grade will take 1.5 credits of Chinese each year. We are very grateful to districts and junior highs/middle schools who allow parents flexibility in which classes their children take. Because of the small number of electives, for some students it will make sense to not take some classes (e.g., health, PE, FAC, art, music, Utah history, etc.) so that they can take the classes they really want to (e.g., health, PE, FAC, art, music, Utah history, etc.) and still take the full immersion load.

So, when do students take AP Chinese? The current structure is for students to take the World Language 5 DLI Honors course in 9th grade, and if they are ready, to take the AP test. Let’s assume a student takes and passes the AP language test in 9th grade. What next?

Your student will have the opportunity to take “Bridge courses,” which are funded by a state law passed in 2016. These are college level courses, with different courses being offered in 10th, 11th and 12th grades – helping students earn both high school and college credit. As stated here, “The [University of Utah’s] Second Language Teaching & Research Center has been charged by the Utah State Board of Education to lead the program and is working closely with all Utah institutions of higher education to develop and deliver 3000-level university courses to high school students. This program will allow them to graduate from high school with up to nine upper division credits and further facilitate their development of advanced language proficiency.” Incredible! Students can graduate from high school just two classes short of a minor in the foreign language.

What if your child isn’t ready for the AP test in 9th grade? That student can take AP Chinese (or French, Spanish, etc.) in 10th grade and then take two bridge courses (in 11th and 12th grade). If you want more detail, you can read this narrative about the Bridge courses or watch a video that explains it.

Some parents have expressed concern about the Regents scholarship. For example, “If my child takes AP Chinese in 9th grade, does she then have to take two consecutive years of a different foreign language in 11th and 12th grades?” Happily the answer is no. The Regents office has specified in writing (page 9 of this document) that the bridge classes WILL count towards Regents.

In summary: 1. 7th and 8th grade students should take 1.5-2 credits of foreign language each year. We hope districts and schools will offer schedule flexibility so students can take the immersion classes and other classes that will be most beneficial for them individually. 2. Students will have the opportunity to either (a) take the AP test in 9th grade and then take three college classes (in grades 10-12), or (b) take the AP test in 10th grade and then take two college classes (in grades 11-12). Either of these options will satisfy Regents.

Utah’s immersion program is awesome. Thank a teacher, administrator or legislator today!


How Can I Help My Child Learn Mandarin When I Don’t Speak It?

Often parents worry about how they will be able to help their children learn how to speak Chinese when they themselves don’t speak it. It can feel as daunting as hiking the complete length of the great wall of China!

But don’t worry! You don’t have to speak any Mandarin for your children to succeed. At the same time, you can provide your children with time to practice their Chinese during the school week. Just as skills like reading English and doing math need to be reinforced at home, so do the Chinese skills your child is learning. This does not need to be incredibly time-consuming. Fifteen to thirty minutes of Chinese time each school night can give your child the reinforcement he or she needs. The following are suggestions of how non-Chinese speaking parents can help create this Chinese time for their children.

1. Support your child in doing any Chinese homework they have. For example if s/he has a take home reading book listen to your child read it. If your child has spelling words, have them write the words two or three times each night. If your child doesn’t have homework, ask your teacher for some, or use some of the below resources. 15-30 minutes of Chinese practice at home can definitely help your child learn Chinese.

2. Currently, some schools use a Singapore reading curriculum. You access their website and have your children read you the books they are studying in school. The website can be a little difficult to navigate because it’s in Chinese, but don’t be intimidated – it really isn’t that hard, especially because your child can probably figure it out. If that fails, contact your child’s teacher.

3. Some students use Better Chinese. Your school may provide free or discounted membership; it is typically about $25.00 a year. Having your children read you the online stories can be very helpful for them to reinforce their reading skills.

4. Math flashcards that children can use to remember math vocabulary. (English translation here).

5. Digital flashcards based on the key vocab words are available to help your children reinforce their skills. First grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade. Notice that there are some games that can be played. Some are harder than others, “Scatter” is one that many children will enjoy.

6. Practice reading with Chinese Immersion teachers from Canada reading Chinese books.

7. Let your children watch Chinese video clips. For example, they can watch Dora the Explorer or  Spongebob Squarepants (note – both of those links are to YouTube-like sites that display ads. Putting the display to full-screen often eliminates the ad. Both of those links are for individual episodes; additional episodes appear underneath). Younger learners might enjoy Sesame Street or Thomas the Train in Chinese. Several other videos, songs, etc. are linked here.

Dora Chinese

8. Connect with other parents of immersion students and work together. Get connected if you aren’t already.

9. Help your children type in Chinese. This YouTube video explains how to make it so that you can type Chinese characters on your computer. Some children will have fun typing letters to each other using characters. For those who like pinyin, this macro can help you quickly transform a word like “wo3” into “wǒ.”

10. If you have a smart device, get some apps for your kids to play with. Speak and Learn Pro (iOS only) works like Rosetta stone, but much cheaper ($9.99). Should be a fun review for most students and a good way to reinforce learning.

The main thing is to keep on trying — a consistent effort to help your child spent 15-30 minutes a day having fun with Chinese at home can pay big dividends.

What tools/ideas have you found to be successful?

Remember, we are part of something great

By Kami McMaster, Ridgecrest Elementary Council Representative

Recently, members of the Utah Mandarin Immersion Parent Council (UMIC) board met with officials from Canyons School District, the Utah State Office of Education and the Confucius Institute at the University of Utah. We were educated in detail about the guest teacher program and the state’s vision for language immersion. We will share details about the guest teacher program in a separate post. Meanwhile, here’s why I left thinking: our children are privileged to be part of something great.

What sets Utah’s language immersion program apart:

Training – As most of you know, the program relies heavily on guest teachers from China and Taiwan due, in part, to the shortage of qualified homegrown educators with near-native speaking skills. These teachers enrich classrooms culturally, but also face a steep learning curve and their own cultural adjustment. To better prepare them for the rigors of American classrooms – including classroom management challenges they inevitably face – Utah puts them through two weeks of training. For teachers out of Hanban (a division of the ministry of education in China) this comes on top of two weeks of training provided by the Chinese government prior their stepping foot in the country. Local school districts further supplement this with their own training.

Curriculum development – In America, public school teachers are typically told what to teach, but now how to teach it. In other words, they are given a scripted curriculum, but are generally responsible for developing their own lesson plans. Utah’s immersion guest teachers, however, are given the whole package, lesson plans and all. The state is currently building a curriculum that will carry students from elementary school through junior high and beyond, and publishing supporting classroom materials, including supplemental readers. If a student chooses to stay in the program throughout high school the language proficiency goal for them is in the advanced range on the ACTFL proficiency scale. By comparison, most LDS missionaries return home at intermediate high proficiency.

Sustainability – Working with area universities, Utah education officials created a special endorsement, or certification, for immersion teachers. The goal is to grow and groom a local pool of teaching candidates. This takes time and the state is just now starting to see the fruits of its labor – the first graduates. In addition, Brigham Young University just announced an immersion minor. And state officials host an open house at the University of Utah each year to show bilingual college grads that teaching at an elementary school is a viable alternative to teaching a foreign language in high school or college.

In summary, from training our teachers to developing classroom texts, Utah is making a name for itself as a national leader in language immersion. We are a state to watch and recognized by many educators as “the place” to come and teach.
“These programs are being recognized because they are innovative, they are cost-effective, they are sustainable and they produce incredible results,” said Sandra Talbot, state Chinese immersion program director. “But more important than all of these worthwhile reasons is the impact they have on the individual – the student sitting in an immersion classroom who will change our world.”

What can parents do?

We are pioneers in this effort. For those of us with children “just starting out” and parents of kids among the “first group” of immersion learners at our respective schools, it may sometimes feel that the struggle is too much, the learning curve “too high.” We muddle through, breaking in new teachers each year as the program grows with our kids, with a level of “blind faith” that can make us anxious. But I am personally confident that, in the end, we will be glad and proud to say that our child attended Chinese dual immersion in Utah.

We need to be champions for this program and contribute time and resources to our schools. While the vision at the state level is grand, the implementation at our classroom level is a challenge, but a very exciting one. Our teachers need to be told they are doing a great job. Our principals need to be applauded for maintaining the program at our schools. Difficulties will arise, and we need to face them with positive attitudes and helpful actions. Stay involved with your individual child; look for cultural events to invite their excitement, and your own. Study the broad movement of dual immersion in the country and celebrate the results.

How is language immersion impacting your child?

Jeongwoon (Erin) Kim, a Ph.D. candidate at BYU is asking that very question of parents. I know plenty of us can attest to the changes we see in our kids, the lessons learned beyond just acquiring another language. I distinctly remember one mother saying how the immersion experience taught her son the value of hard work. He’s one of those kids who excels at everything. Having to sweat through something new and challenging is teaching him a valuable life lesson. I’m eager to hear the results of this study – which is IRB-approved. For those of you who don’t know, an Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a committee designated to approve, monitor and review research on humans to ensure it adheres to certain ethical guidelines.

Participation requires a confidential, in-person interview. Below is more detailed information. If you’re interested in participating, fill out the form below and email it to Erin at,

Consent to be a Research Subject

This research study is being conducted by Jeongwoon Kim, a Ph.D. student in Instructional Psychology and Technology—Language Acquisition, at Brigham Young University to understand the impact of language immersion program on elementary school children from their parents’ perspective. John Hilton III, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU who has a Ph.D. in education, is a faculty advisor. You were invited to participate because your child(ren) is(are) enrolled in an elementary school language immersion program.


If you agree to participate in this research study, the following will occur:

  • you will be interviewed for approximately thirty minutes to an hour each time about your child(ren) and language immersion.
  • the interview will be audio recorded to ensure accuracy in reporting your statements
  • the interview will take place on BYU campus at a time convenient for you or it will take place at a time and location convenient for you
  • the researcher may contact you later to clarify your interview answers for approximately fifteen (15) minutes.
  • total time commitment will be thirty minutes to two hours.
  • you may be be interviewed once or twice more to accurately capture your perspective.

There are minimal risks for participation in this study. You may feel some discomfort when being audio recorded or talking about personal things. If you feel uncomfortable about answering a particular question, you may choose to decline or excuse yourself from the study.

There will be no direct benefits to you. It is hoped, however, that through your participation researchers may learn about the impact of language immersion in your child(ren)’s life and better them.


The research data will be kept in the researcher’s password-protected computer and only the researcher will have access to the data. At the conclusion of the study, all identifying information will be removed from the researcher’s personal computer and the data will be stored in the researcher’s locked cabinet/office.

There will be no direct compensation for participating in this study.


Participation in this research study is voluntary. You have the right to withdraw at any time or refuse to participate entirely.

Questions about the Research
If you have questions regarding this study, you may contact Jeongwoon Kim at (801)361-1766 or John Hilton III at (801-422-7394 for further information.

Questions about Your Rights as Research Participants
If you have questions regarding your rights as a research participant contact IRB Administrator at (801) 422-1461; A-285 ASB, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602;

Statement of Consent
I have read, understood, and received a copy of the above consent and desire of my own free will to participate in this study.

Name (Printed): Signature Date:

Two must-do events for parents

Parent Workshop: Mandarin 101
Sarah Erwin, a parent at Lone Peak Elementary has put together a free, one-hour workshop on the basics: pinyin pronunciation, how to use a Chinese/English dictionary, parent-tested homework tips and more….

Where: Sandy Public Library
When: Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m.


AnneElise Xiao’s next Chinese Corner is on Saturday, Dec. 8th at 10:15 a.m. at the Sandy Library. The subject: asking for directions.

People have asked if these are always held in Sandy. The answer is, yes. But any parent can start their own Chinese Corner. Here’s how.

Chinese Corner Calendar
Dec 8      – Asking Directions
Dec 15     – No Class
Dec 22   – Asking For Help
Jan 5      – Taking about neighbors and Friends
Jan 19    –   No Class
Jan 26   –   Identifying People
Feb 9    –   Talk about Language
(Happy Chinese new years!/ Spring festival)
Feb 23   –   Talk about Activities
Mar 9    –    Talking with friends
Mar 23 –    Talking about the past
April 6   –   Asking Questions (Qing Ming Festival)
April 20 – Measuring and comparing
May 4    –    Asking for Help
May 18   –   Talking about the Weather
June 1   –     Marriage and Families
Jun 15   –    Planning the future (Dragon boat Festival)
June 29 –    Talk about Habits

Parent Workshop: Mandarin 101

You don’t have to know Mandarin to support your dual immersion learner. But it certainly doesn’t hurt. Sarah Erwin, a parent at Lone Peak Elementary has put together a free, one-hour workshop on the basics: pinyin pronunciation, how to use a Chinese/English dictionary, parent-tested homework tips and more….

The first class is today, Nov. 26 at 1 p.m. at the Draper Public Library. But don’t fret – if you miss it, you’ll have three more chances:

Draper Public Library
Nov. 29 6:30 p.m.

Sandy Public Library
Monday, Dec. 3 at 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m.

If you’re coming to the Dec. 4 meeting, Sarah asks that you RSVP, because the room has limited space,