Zoe and two of her friends started an immersion Chinese language class today (we're calling it "Camp," since it makes it sound more fun!), and all were very excited and had a great time. One of her friends is adopted from China, the other is a non-adopted Caucasian classmate with an interest in languages (it's so cool that the Chinese girls can see that non-Chinese people are ALSO interested in learning Chinese. They're not so different after all!). There are ten kids in the class, 3 of whom have no previous experience with Chinese language. The class also covers Chinese culture -- today they learned how to play with Chinese yo-yos (I don't think they're quite as good as the guys in the video yet!). Although it's supposed to be an immersion program, with the course guidelines saying, "The teacher will use the target language most of the time, with English instruction used only when absolutely necessary," Zoe tells me the teacher mostly spoke English. I hope that changes as the class progresses.
I'm thrilled with this opportunity! We always slide back on Chinese language during the summer, so this gives us a chance to stay with it. And guess what? The program is FREE! We paid a $100 deposit, which we'll get back as long as we attend regularly and do the assignments!
This or similar programs may be offered in your area -- it's called STARTALK, and is part of the National Security Language Initiative (hum the them from "Jaws" or the "Twilight Zone," your choice, as you read those words!), which "seeks to expand and improve the teaching and learning of strategically important world languages that are not now widely taught in the US." How cool is that?! I actually love that my federal tax dollars are going into such a smart program (so much smarter than expelling Arabic-language translators from the military because they're gay, which seems to be our other popular strategic language initiative).
Click here for a list of all summer Chinese programs through STARTALK. They've got them all over the place: AZ CA CO CT DE HI IL IN KS KY MA MD ME MN MS NC NJ NM NY OH PA RI TX UT VA VT WA WI. There are also other langages, including Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Persian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu.
When I first heard about the program in our area, I was disappointed to learn that it was being offered only to middle and high school students. I talked to the director (who also happens to be the principal of the Chinese School the girls have attended for years!), and begged to have Zoe included if at all possible. He emailed me a few weeks later to say they'd decided to include rising 3rd graders, to my utter delight! So if your child doesn't meet the listed criteria, my experience says it doesn't hurt to ask. Next year, they expect the Fort Worth area program to include all elementary grades, so Maya can go too.
We're still going to be going to Chinese Heritage Camp this year, since it doesn't do as much about language, so it really won't be duplicative. It's also fun -- if you're going to Tulsa for this camp, let us know to look for you!