Tag Archives: bilingual

A-list parents pay big $ to have kids learn Mandarin

Surprise! Demand for Mandarin language programs is growing, according to Reuters. Some parents don’t have access to public programs and are having to shell out thousands to send their kids to international schools and bilingual summer camps.

If you have deep pockets, you might be interested in the story, which lists some of the multiplying pay-to-play learning opportunities. An excerpt:

“(Reuters) – If famed investor Jim Rogers is known for one trait above all, it is for spotting themes early — and betting on them big. So when the co-founder of The Quantum Fund (with George Soros) and author of “Adventure Capitalist” became a father, he naturally thought of how best to give his daughters an advantage.

His answer: Have them learn Mandarin.

“I am spending a lot of time, money and energy to be sure my kids do it,” Rogers told Reuters.

Indeed. Instead of just hiring a Mandarin-speaking nanny or having his daughters take a language class or two per week, the Rogers family packed up their belongings and moved across the world to Singapore.”

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.”

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.

What the country is saying about Utah’s language immersion program

First The New York Times, now Time Magazine. Utah’s language immersion program is growing and continuing to draw national attention.

I’m not sure I agree with Jeffrey Kluger, the author of this Time Magazine piece who says, “The idea behind [Utah’s] program has less to do with the usual talk about a globalizing world and America’s need to become a polyglot nation if it’s going to compete effectively with China and other rising economies–though that’s part of it–and more to do with the nimble minds of the boys and girls doing the learning.”

The neurological benefits of bilingualism are well researched and comprehensively described by Kruger. But my guess is that parents enrolling their children have myriad motivations: from preparing their children to succeed in a globalized economy to expanding their academic and cultural horizons.

Regardless, it’s about time America embraced multilingualism. As Utah language immersion specialist Gregg Roberts is quoted in the Time story as saying: “Monolingualism is the illiteracy of the 21st century.”

Time Magazine has a pay wall, but here’s a teaser to entice you to read more. It’s worth the money!

“All over Utah, elementary-school students are joking and studying and singing and reading and fluently speaking in languages not their own: French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and, soon, Portuguese. They are part of one of the most ambitious total- immersion language-education programs ever attempted in the U.S. It kicked off in the 2009 school year with 1,400 students in 25 schools and by this fall will include 20,000 kids in 100 schools–or 20% of all the elementary schools in the state, with nearly 95% of school districts participating up through grade 12. …..

The idea behind the program has less to do with the usual talk about a globalizing world and America’s need to become a polyglot nation if it’s going to compete effectively with China and other rising economies–though that’s part of it–and more to do with the nimble minds of the boys and girls doing the learning. Research is increasingly showing that the brains of people who know two or more languages are different from those who know just one–and those differences are all for the better. Multilingual people, studies show, are better at reasoning, at multitasking, at grasping and reconciling conflicting ideas. They work faster and expend less energy doing so, and as they age, they retain their cognitive faculties longer, delaying the onset of dementia and even full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.”

No English spoken here!

Only in New York would you be able to find a Mandarin immersion lego engineering program! Wish they had something like this here.

Use or it, or lose it. It’s not easy to force yourself to speak a language different from the “mother” tongue of those around you. Not even for an American English teacher living in Spain who had best intentions of raising a bilingual son.

A summer, university-based language academy for high school students! A resource to remember for when our kids reach high school age (maybe they’ll add Chinese):
“Shortly after the 165 high school students from around the state of Virginia arrived on Washington and Lee University’s campus last weekend, they made a promise, in writing: no cell phones, no iPods, no iPads, and no English for the next three weeks.
The students are participants in three Virginia Governor’s Language Academies in Spanish, French and German….
One wrinkle to the program is that the students will actually leave with three languages. Each academy is teaching its students an additional foreign language. For instance, students in the Spanish academy are learning Japanese, but they are being taught in Spanish. German students are learning Russian, and French students are learning Arabic.”

News of the day

Two interesting news items I encountered over the past few weeks:

“How China views the world,” according to Time Magazine (you need to subscribe/pay to read it).

Another dispatch on the benefits of being bilingual. If you’ve signed up your kids for immersion, you probably don’t need convincing. Still, this summarizes some of the latest research in an easy-to-digest way.

Bilingual celebrities

“What do Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, and Mila Kunis have in common,” asks Parade Magazine. “They’re all bilingual!”

OK, I usually avoid celebrity “news” stories like the plague. But I couldn’t resist this one. Parade Magazine says:
“Sandra Bullock is fluent in German. Her mother was a German opera singer, and Bullock lived with relatives in Germany and Austria for several years as a child.”

Who knew?