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Two Articles on Chinese Language Learning and Methods

"At a Chinese restaurant, third grader Catherine Conway surprised the waiter by speaking to him in his own language.
“He was so happy, he gave me extra fortune cookies,” she says.
- from “Where are the Chinese-speakers of the future?”

by April Austin | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor: Article.

I know that some of you reading this are, like my wife and me, trying to raise bilingual or polyglot children.

This month, instead of featuring a learning or fun resource, I’m sharing links to a couple related stories I ran across in The Christian Science Monitor. Consider them “Food for Thought” on the larger topics of Chinese language education. Apologies in advance for the U.S.-centric angles.

Where are the Chinese-speakers of the future?” appearing last year in The Christian Science Monitor, raises a good question:

If China is emerging as a superpower and major trading partner…why isn’t the U.S. fostering more Chinese language study programs in its schools? Where will future Chinese-proficient Americans will come from?

My guess: They will largely be 2nd generation Chinese, like the children of my Chinese immigrant friends here around Seattle who work in science and engineering and computer technology and medicine. (And maybe my daughters, ages 3 and 1, though they say they’d rather be ballerinas than diplomats or international dealmakers.)

The second article you might find interesting: “Chinese schools get creative,” by Linda Baker, also appearing in The Christian Science Monitor, tells the story of how, while here in the U.S. the “No Child Left Behind” program is focused on standardization and test scores and “reading, writing, and math,” schools in China are beginning to move away from their more regimented, authoritarian “Test Scores Are Everything” leanings into a more creative atmosphere, where teachers are viewed more as “guides” than “authority figures.”

In the end, this pursuit of what might be more “Western” trends in education still results, however, in more calls for Westerners themselves.

More exchanges with American students and teachers would facilitate efforts to retool teaching methods and curriculum, say some Suzhou teachers….

“Tell American teachers we would like them to teach here,” says Xu Tainzhong, principal of the Suzhou Experimental Elementary School.

This of course makes me wonder if the U.S. should create of program for teachers from China to come emphasize their own strengths in our classrooms. Based on what I’ve seen, I know my own math skills would probably be better if I had learned math “The Chinese Way.” Hmm….

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