Mandarin Speaks to Next Generation

The MVLA school district is offering Mandarin Chinese classes as a foreign language option for the first time this year in response to community interest. The school currently offers Mandarin I for those completely unfamiliar with the language, and Heritage Mandarin for those students with Chinese background.

According to Superintendent Barry Groves, learning the language is important because of the growing power of China in the global economy.

Mandarin I is taught during seventh period by Josephine Tsao. There are a total of 19 students, ranging from freshmen to seniors. According to Tsao, nine students are from a Chinese background, in which at least one parent speaks Mandarin or Cantonese.

“[Students] work together as a team for homework, tests and oral presentations,” Tsao said. “They learn a lot from each other.”

By the end of the semester, Mandarin I students who pass the class with a C or higher can transfer into Mandarin II, taught during second semester.

Many of the students who are of Asian background joined the class to learn more about their heritage.

“I’ve always wanted to take Mandarin because I’m half Chinese,” junior Madison Huang said. “It’s the first Asian language [the school has] offered.”

Many non-Asians have also taken an interest in learning Mandarin.

“I took the class because I thought it was cool,” sophomore Elliot Davis said.

The drive to introduce Chinese in the Bay Area has been part of a growing trend over the past several years.

According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, the number of students learning Chinese in American public schools increased from 5,000 to 50,000 from 2000 to 2005. The College Board created the AP Chinese exam in 2006. According to Jim Bradshaw of the Department of Education, in October of 2006, the government allotted $12.9 billion to schools to fund education in the Chinese language.

“As China gradually becomes an economic superpower in the world, more and more businesses around the world will flock to China,” Tsao said. “Students who learn to speak Mandarin will have the advantage in their future career.”

Several school districts in the Bay Area have caught on to this trend and already established Chinese as a foreign language. According to its Superintendent Polly Bove, the Fremont Union High School District accepted Chinese into its curriculum in 1999

The Cupertino Union School District, according to Communications Manager Jeremy Nishihara, established its Mandarin Immersion Program 10 years ago. It currently provides a K-8 Chinese education for elementary and middle school students.

“I believe that every student should know at least two languages,” Groves said. “With the largest population and [China’s] increasing role as a world power, Mandarin will become a more important language in coming years.