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Chinese immersion programs in Utah continue to grow

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  • beetdiggingcougar Provo, UT
    April 11, 2011 6:28 p.m.

    This program can't last for one year only for the children's learning to stick.

    Also, being on a mission to Taiwan I am a bit cynical. Do you remember the part of "The Music Man" where the children play their instruments in a horrible fashion and the parents all swoon with joy? Of course the teacher will say the children are amazing because no one else can tell (and if they could the teacher might be out of a job).

    If these students don't continue learning Chinese for years to come these talents will simply be a cheap trick for a Ward Christmas Party.

  • 3bugz South Jordan, UT
    April 11, 2011 7:13 p.m.

    beetdiggingcougar

    These children will continue to learn Mandarin throughout elementary school, and middle school, by the time they are sophomores in high school they will be taking 300 level college courses, in Mandarin. They will be a lot more proficient in the language than returned missionaries.

  • Chuck E. Racer Lehi, UT
    April 11, 2011 7:14 p.m.

    Our local school did the "Spanish immersion." Many of the children dropped out after a few years and had not been taught sufficiently in English. Their reading and grammar skills were significantly behind. Since a student can't opt into the program later and make it, the class size diminishes. That means all the other students have to subsidize those in this class. Our children were hurt by this program since they were the victims of "The Music Men" selling a program that is appealing, but has failed over and over. It hurts many in the program and hurts all of those outside of it who subsidize it.

  • beetdiggingcougar Provo, UT
    April 11, 2011 7:48 p.m.

    3bugz

    Lots of forward looking statements there. What my point was that we better just hope the Legislature doesn't cut their budget (they've done it for other programs) or all of your predictions may not come true.

    One other thing to remember. You might also notice the article states BYU grads will be the teachers. Where do you think these BYU grads learned Mandarin? Most are RMs. These kids will have a nice thick American accent since most of the students won't have an opportunity to talk to natives. You know the scene in "A Christmas Story" with the Chinese singers with bad pronunciation? Just reverse it.

  • PressureDrop Provo, UT
    April 11, 2011 9:08 p.m.

    Wow! Lots of negative comments here...

    My daughter is finishing up her SECOND year in the Chinese program. We have another daughter entering the program next year. The Chinese teachers in her elementary school are native Mandarin speakers.

    My daughter struggled a bit in her first year (which is natural), but is now coming into her own. It's pretty amazing to visit her class and see the kids talking to each other in Chinese.

    As for immersion students not being "taught sufficiently in English", our daughter studies math in Chinese and reading/spelling/language in English. And if parents do simple things like reading English books with their kids (which they should be doing anyway), there shouldn't be any problems with students falling behind in English.

    My two cents :)

  • Casey Ryback Chapel Hill, NC
    April 12, 2011 4:06 a.m.

    EXCELLENT

    To be the best, children need to start language-learning as early as possible. And practice, practice, practice.

    That is because once facial muscles form (~age 10) -- articulating certain sounds is very, very difficult. That is why there is Adult Spanglish, Adult Kanglish, Franglish, etc.

    Plus, of course, children learn at a much-faster pace than adults.

    Well-done.

  • John Adams Miami, FL
    April 12, 2011 6:27 a.m.

    @ PressureDrop | 9:08 p.m. April 11, 2011

    There is far more to learning English than just reading it.

    Over the years, I have taught on the college/university level at four different schools. My experience has shown that the vast majority of these students have absolutely no command of the English language, be it written or spoken. After 12 years of primary and secondary education, followed by another four years of "higher education" (and I use the term lightly), we are graduating students who write and talk like uneducated clods.

    There was a time, and it was not too long ago, that the education system in the United States was second to none. Today, we lag woefully behind no less than 20 other nations. That is inexcusable.

    This is the United States of America. We speak English, and our children should learn to speak it well before attempting to learn another language.

    If we, as a nation, wish to regain our place as a world leader in education, we must to return to the basics and teach those (basic) subjects that made us great.

    We should be masters of our own language, first.

  • Goet Ogden, UT
    April 12, 2011 12:25 p.m.

    John: much of the lag is caused by watering down standards to accomodate ESL and special ed, as part of the NCLB. If you want X percent to pass, lower the standards until you meet your goal! If we would allow people to enter trade/tech programs or to just plain fail out of the academic push that is prevalent in our schools, we wouldn't have this problem. Instead, EVERY child must succeed and success is only marked by going to college. Thus, a large influx of unprepared college kids who shouldn't be there in the first place. Colleges are NOT complaining. More kids equals a bigger bottom line.

    If we want excellence, my honest opinion is that it starts at home. Parents must be willing to push their kids to excel. Simply having teachers with high demands means simply having more kids who fail. Success starts in the home.

    Learning a 2nd language has also been shown to greatly increase learning in other subjects. Like math, second languages allow our understanding and ability to reason to improve. We should be pushing for more language learning.

  • John Adams Miami, FL
    April 12, 2011 1:00 p.m.

    Goet | 12:25 p.m. April 12, 2011

    I agree with much of what you say. However...

    "... second languages allow our understanding and ability to reason to improve."

    Can you provide any hard evidence on that, please? That sounds like an awfully borad statement. How does studying/speaking a second language improve "reasoning" skills when graduates can't properly write and speak their native tongue?

  • Chuck E. Racer Lehi, UT
    April 12, 2011 7:05 p.m.

    Learning another language can be a real benefit, particularly if it causes you to learn the grammar of English in the process. However these "immersion" programs in the elementary grades take away from the basics the kids need at that age, and they cause the students not in the program to have bigger class sizes and in other ways subsidize the immersion class.

    It's been tried for 30 years in Utah with little success and harm to many, but it sounds sooo "cute" to have kids speak somewhat in another language, not to mention the "My kid is in the Immersion class (and therefore I'm a better parent)" badge that many parents wear.

  • attentive Salt Lake City, UT
    April 13, 2011 12:49 a.m.

    Spanish or Mandarin, which is it this week?

  • jimhale Eugene, OR
    April 13, 2011 5:43 a.m.

    Funny how parents in China aren't worried about their children being taught insufficiently in Mandarin. Their kids work hard to learn English and then work extra in Chinese to do well in both.

    They not only work more cheaply than we, they work smarter.

    There are more people learning English in China.....than the total population of the US....over 300 million.

    Immersion programs work. They must continue through the secondary level. Native speaking teachers are best.

    We have Japanese, French and Spanish programs here. The Japanese immersion program was the first in this country. It's kindergarten is Japanese only. Thereafter it's one half day in Japanese, one half day in English.....through middle school; about 2/5th of the day is in Japanese in high school. The kids go to Japan in the fifth grade...paid by parents. Their hosts are shocked. They have seen few foreigners who speak Japanese so well.

    The Japanese program has been around long enough that its first graduates are now out of college. Those who complete the program can write their own ticket in this life.

  • staypuffinpc Provo, UT
    April 13, 2011 7:02 a.m.

    It seems like some people never have anything constructive to add to a conversation on these articles. I also teach in higher ed and I don't think it fitting to refer to my students as "uneducated clods," especially after I've taught them ;) As far as the U.S. being the world leader in education formerly, there is and never was any proof to substantiate that claim.

    The reason we know we're not the leaders now is because, in 1995, we started participating in international tests and discovered we're not the geniuses we thought we were. Are we doing what we can to improve? You bet, but learning a second language is actually one of the ways to do that. There's ample evidence that learning a second language actually improves one's native language, but it takes 2-3 years for kids to "catch up," and beyond that foreign-language studying students surpass their monolingual counterparts in their understanding and command of their native tongue. Look it up at CALICO, convergent cognition, and ACTFL.

  • Say No to BO Mapleton, UT
    April 13, 2011 7:07 a.m.

    Good idea.
    After all, we're racking up debt they'll be paying for all their lives. They should at least be able to communicate with their "owners."

  • Goet Ogden, UT
    April 13, 2011 7:08 a.m.

    I'll give you my own practical experience. Knowing another language allows me to decipher word meanings solely based on root words/prefixes. I have a completely separate path of understanding. Often, I find that my native language is unable to convey the meaning or sentiment as does the 2L. Many have the same issue.

    Learning a second language provides a broader view, not just of the culture of other nations, but of thought processes. Just the way we formulate sentences in 2+ languages changes our thought patterns.

    I'm not defending immersion programs. I have no idea of their efficacy. I do, however, defend learning second languages as a young child. Many studies show that this is the best time for 2L acquisition and that having children begin their K-12 with L2 learning improves their academics across the board.

  • staypuffinpc Provo, UT
    April 13, 2011 7:14 a.m.

    For those worried about attrition, these immersion programs are a 6-year deal. Parents are asked to commit (inasmuch as that's possible) to the full 6 years when enrolling their kids in these programs. We have sons in both the Chinese and French immersion programs and they're doing great in both languages. Also, the program requires native speakers as the foreign-language teachers. So, beetdiggingcougar, don't worry, these kids will be speaking Mandarin way better than the language you picked up on your mission.

    For those worried about the drain this program is on local society (e.g., @Chuck E Racer), you raise an important point in that not all immersion programs are created equal. Reports that have looked at over 7,700 different students in immersion programs (Howard, Sugarman, & Christian, 2003; Collier & Thomas, 2002). The effective programs must be full, dual, or two-way immersion. Those programs that "gradually" introduce ELL students to English and reduce the amount of immersion each year are ineffective and just teach students that it's bad to speak their native tongue. Luckily, those running these new programs in Utah get it.

  • SimonSays Riverton, UT
    April 13, 2011 7:16 a.m.

    What's next ... a Communist Chinese flag in every classroom?

  • Eric the Half-bee Bountiful, UT
    April 13, 2011 8:14 a.m.

    In "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, the author describes how the Chinese (and other eastern) way of undertanding numbers in a logical progression (as opposed to western numbering systems where the natural progression is often interrupted by seemingly random, non-pattern names for some numbers) lends itself to faster, more comprehensive math skills. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean 2-year-olds can count to 50 and beyond, where most western-thinking kids only make it to about fourteen by that age. Gladwell explains that it is because of this language-based understanding of numbers, more so than other factors, that Chinese and other eastern cultures tend to be more adept at math.

    There's not room here to do justice to his gracefully simple explanation (so simple, a caveman could understand it), so head on over to your local library.

  • Ricardo Carvalho Provo, UT
    April 13, 2011 8:14 a.m.

    My daughter is in a Chinese immersion program and continues to fare well on standardized testing compared with the non-immersion students. As someone involved in higher education, I worry not at all about her ability to compete with her non-immersion peers.

  • Pagan Salt Lake City, UT
    April 13, 2011 9:02 a.m.

    South Korea, China and Japan teach English.

    America?

    This is needed. How can America compete internationally when we can't even speak a 2nd langauge?

    Have you SEEN 'Swamp People' on the history channel?

    They tell me, it's in english....and have to use subtitles.

    In my opinion, this can only benifit the child. Giving them the tools and hopeful curiosity to engage in the world.

    The idea of 'In the world, but not OF the world' has been disproven.

    My examples?

    The Soviet Union
    Utah

    We are very much OF the world. Not matter how many barriers we try to use to seperate ourselves.

    Including the langauge barrier.

  • john_h Orem, UT
    April 13, 2011 9:08 a.m.

    I have 1 daughter finishing her second year in Chinese immersion and another finishing her first. They both can read/write/speak/ Chinese and not at all behind in other subjects. All of the Chinese teachers they have had are native Chinese speakers. The program has been PHENOMENAL. @beetdiggingcougar and others, I hope the comments you've seen have turned away your cynicism. I speak Chinese so I'm not worried about the "music man" effect...I see what my kids are capable of and it's real. I'm so grateful that these programs are available.

  • Chickenchaser Centralia, WA
    April 13, 2011 9:12 a.m.

    Let the program grow slowly and naturally or it can die. That would be tragic.
    This will also give concerns an opportunity to catch up.

  • DeltaFoxtrot West Valley, UT
    April 13, 2011 9:17 a.m.

    Might as well let 'em expand.

    If we keep going down the road we're own the Chinese will own this nation within 20 years.

  • ute4ever West Jordan, UT
    April 13, 2011 9:32 a.m.

    I was a skeptic when our school introduced the Spanish Immersion program during my first child's kindergarten year. We signed her up and have never regretted it for an instance. There are multiple studies out there that show that, initially, the immersion students lag behind the non-immersion students. After 3-4 years, they catch up and pass immersion students in all faucets of school, English included.

    My daughter is in 1st grade now and speaks spanish around the home (I speak spanish too and I can vouch that she can communicate in spanish). It really is pretty amazing.

    We had concerns about the district's committment to this. We were assured that there are already plans to take this program through elementry, into middle school where multiple classes will be in spanish, then have the option to learn a 3rd language in high school, or take college level courses in high school and graduate high school with a college Minor in spanish.

    After 2 years of the program, I really do not see a down side to the program and absolutely love it. I hope this helps the uneducated critics here.

  • Independent Henderson, NV
    April 13, 2011 9:34 a.m.

    I was a Spanish immersion student. Most of the kids in my class and I consistently tested higher than most kids in English reading and writing, in addition to everything else. There are no down sides to learning another language this early. It has been a tremendous help to me in my life to know two languages. Utah definitely has the right idea here, and the rest of the country should follow.

    Who cares if kids learn the second language with an American accent? It's far better than not learning the language at all. Should Scandinavian people not bother to learn English just because they wind up speaking it with a Scandinavian accent? Don't be ridiculous. I will never speak Spanish like a native, but that doesn't stop me from communicating with people in Spanish.

  • Hubble65 Sandy, UT
    April 13, 2011 9:39 a.m.

    A comment and a question. First, learning a second language is a good thing overall. In most European countries besides learning their native language with its grammar and structure, they have to learn English and most learn another language on top of that. The difference is results. In Europe they are required to test to show mastery of the language at their level. In other words, it is part of their academic progress. What results are provided to actually show mastery of the language at the student's level? If we are going to use the academic time then results must be expected. Questions. There are only x amount of hours in a school day so something is being given up? Is it PE, social studies, science? Is the program worth not going more in depth in the area given up? Since native speakers teach this, then are these native speakers taking regular teaching jobs that a U.S. citizen could fill? Finally, I know of a school where teachers had to opt in or move schools since the principal brought the program into the school. Do we lose excellent teachers who opt out from a school?

  • Belching Cow Sandy, UT
    April 13, 2011 9:46 a.m.

    This program is a great idea. America is on the decline and probably won't ever recover. Chinese is a good language for our children to start learning since that's where the economic power will be shortly.

    @Pagan
    Ya, Utah is just like the Soviet Union. LOL! Just shows most of your comments are not to be taken seriously. Anyway, I thought you libs liked communism.

  • Independent Henderson, NV
    April 13, 2011 10:53 a.m.

    "There are only x amount of hours in a school day so something is being given up? Is it PE, social studies, science?"

    No. That's the beauty of it. Kids in immersion programs still learn everything all the other kids learn. They just do it in another language, which is really the only good way to learn a language. They speak English at home, and their natural curiosity leads them to learn how to read and write in English way before they actually start spending time on it in school, at least it did with me and my piers.

  • Independent Henderson, NV
    April 13, 2011 11:03 a.m.

    Goet, that was precisely my experience having gone through an immersion program.

    New languages aren't just a set of grammar rules and vocabulary, they are entirely new ways of thinking, and understanding them can give you so many advantages in life, not to mention the experience of simply seeing the beauty in some other language and culture.

    I wish immersion programs were available to my kids. It almost makes it worth it to move to Utah...almost.

  • Pagan Salt Lake City, UT
    April 13, 2011 11:18 a.m.

    Belching Cow | 9:46 a.m.,

    Iron curtian - Derived from Winston Churchhill's speech in Fulton Missouri, 1946. Throughout the Cold War the term "curtain" would become a common euphemism for boundaries - physical or ideological - between communist and capitalist states.

    The Mormon Curtian - An actual website dedicated to pointing out the ideological divides that support a 'Us vs. Them' mentality.

    Anyway, I thought you conservatives liked freedom?

  • DeltaFoxtrot West Valley, UT
    April 13, 2011 12:06 p.m.

    My only real problem with foreign language programs is that we've got enough kids who can't speak or write proper English as it is. We need to be making sure they have a firm grasp on grammar in this nation's primary language before we go teaching them another one.

    I went through College English classes, we peer reviewed other students' papers. I swear I don't know how some of my peers made it out of middle school, little lone to a university.

  • Wenkai Taylorsville, UT
    April 13, 2011 12:17 p.m.

    My son is in the Chinese immersion program finishing up year 2. I'm fluent in Chinese (RM) and use chinese in my work every day, and it's been incredible seeing how quickly my son has picked up on this complex language in such a short time. It's not a perfect system, but the dual immersion program is beneficial to the families who elect to take part in it. The program requires a bit more parental involvement (which is a great thing). The fear of falling behind in other subjects because of focusing on Chinese was a concern, although from our experience our child's progress in school is more affected by our direct involvement in what he's learning and preoperly incentivizing him to do well. We've been so happy with the program that our daughter will begin the program in her first grade next year.

    Children are capable of doing amazing things if you give them the opportunity, and the language immersion programs are just one other opportunity. I would highly recommend others take advantage of this if it is available to your children.

  • Serenity Manti, UT
    April 13, 2011 2:10 p.m.

    I saw a movie once which was talking about the economic revolution and how China was the economic leader of the world. Everyone either spoke Manadrin Chinese or didn't survive in the business world. Maybe it's good to teach children Chinese because there isn't only a Chinese immersion, but a Chinese innundation of just about everything and just about everywhere. It seems like everything we buy, including the "American" computer I am using was made in China.

  • staypuffinpc Provo, UT
    April 13, 2011 2:26 p.m.

    For those who have the notion that something is being given up by learning another language, that's not the case. First, the students are not necessarily learning Chinese, but rather they are learning in Chinese. They study math and science in Chinese. My 1st-grade son was calculating the area of a cube while we were eating out the other day (to figure out the # of M&Ms in the jar), so I think by first-grade standards, his math is just fine. My 2nd-grade French-studying child has had report cards indicating he's at the end of the year standard for half the year, so he's not suffering either.

    Research long ago demonstrated that students who "give up" time in other subjects by participating in immersion programs perform on par with the other students (Burstall, Jamieson, Cohen & Hargreaves, 1974; Hilgendorf, Holzkamp & M├╝nzberg, 1970). It's a fallacy to assume that we're giving up on English by studying another language; we're actually helping it.

    (of course, @Independent's misspelling of the word "peer" doesn't help my case, but research in general bears out these arguments ;)

  • Belching Cow Sandy, UT
    April 13, 2011 2:49 p.m.

    @Pagan
    You get your info from places like the Mormon Curtain? That explains a lot. And yes, I do like freedom. Not sure why you think I wouldn't.

  • Pagan Salt Lake City, UT
    April 13, 2011 3:38 p.m.

    'And yes, I do like freedom. Not sure why you think I wouldn't.' - Belching Cow | 2:49 p.m.

    *'GOP trying to use tax law to limit abortions' - By Stephen Ohlemacher - AP - Published by DSNews - 03/31/2011
    'Opponents say the bill would make it difficult, if not impossible, for many women to obtain medical insurance that covers abortions even if they pay for it themselves.'

    Typical.

    I 'love' freedom. You 'can' do whatever you want.

    Until you do something I don't agree with.

    Then you need to 'choose' they way I want you too.

    This is what happens when you paint in broad strokes.

    Or is that NOT what you meant when:

    'Anyway, I thought you libs liked communism.' - Belching Cow | 9:46 a.m.

    Not sure how calling someone a 'communist' is part of civil discourse.

  • Chuck E. Racer Lehi, UT
    April 13, 2011 7:00 p.m.

    @ Independent and Staypuffinpc

    Those that think "That's the beauty of it. Kids in immersion programs still learn everything all the other kids learn. They just do it in another language!" You're very naive! You don't add that much complication without taking away something else majorly.

    My entire career I've watched people adding one more thing after another to what we do as teachers. "It'll only take 5 more minutes. You can fit it in." We already have more to teach than is earthly possible. Saturation was reached long ago. Teaching whatever in any other language pushes other good things out.