More kids adding Chinese to their ABCs

Thu Apr 21, 2011 10:54am EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In Mandarin immersion teacher Kennis Wong's kindergarten class, her young pupils are making paper masks glued to sticks that they twirl between their palms, showing a different face on each side.

With a similar duality, the children at Broadway Elementary in Los Angeles are learning to talk in English and Chinese, and some are becoming trilingual due to a Spanish-speaking parent.

As more parents have sought to give their children an edge in an era when China is a rising economic power, school districts have expanded Chinese language programs and students from a wide range of backgrounds have joined them.

Parents whose children speak Spanish or another language at home, Chinese in class and English on the playground hope their kids have limitless opportunities in a global economy bringing Asia, the U.S. and Latin America closer together.

Broadway Elementary parent Karla Godoy, 41, speaks to her son, Paco, in English, her husband talks to him in Spanish and he learns Mandarin at school.

"With Spanish and Mandarin and English, he should be able to do just about anything he wants," she said.

There are at least 50 Chinese-language immersion programs at U.S. schools for children in grades 12 and below, compared to about a dozen six years ago, said Tara Fortune, immersion project coordinator at the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition at the University of Minnesota.

At Broadway Elementary in Los Angeles, a city with a high Latino population where both English and Spanish are commonly heard in the school yard, the Mandarin program launched this year serves 44 kindergarten students including several, like Cindy Soriano, who speak Spanish.   Continued...

<p>Teacher Kennis Wong (L) points to Chinese characters on the board at Broadway Elementary School in Venice, Los Angeles, California, April 11, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>