Interest in Chinese language soaring in Indiana

[Source]    Associated Press [Time]    2010-06-04 13:37:54 


Nearly four dozen public and private schools in Indiana are offering Chinese language instruction for credit as part of an effort to make Mandarin Chinese the next world language.

Many of the programs are taught by Chinese educators through a collaboration between the College Board and Hanban, a government-funded organization affiliated with the Chinese Education Ministry.

Since 2006, China has sent more than 325 "guest teachers" to work in U.S. schools to help launch Chinese language programs. The teachers can stay for three years, then reapply to stay for another three years.

Other teachers come from a U.S. State Department program called Teachers of Critical Languages or are immigrants or Chinese-Americans who have pursued other careers but are being recruited into education because they are fluent in the language.

Schools offering the instruction range from the private International School of Indiana in Indianapolis -- which begins Chinese language instruction in kindergarten -- to Jennings County High School in southeastern Indiana.

The interest is so high that Chinese has become the third-most-tested language for students taking the Advanced Placement exams, according to the College Board, which administers the college admissions test.

"There’s been a heightened interest and awareness of the need for global language programs that start as early as possible," Caterina Blitzer, vice president for development at the International School of Indiana, told CNHI newspapers.

Adriana Melnyk-Brandt, director of professional development at IUPUI’s School of Education, said IUPUI is one of three universities in Indiana to certify teachers of Chinese. IUPUI’s Confucius Institute is funded by the Chinese government to promote the teaching of Chinese language and culture in the United States.

Melnyk-Brandt said the increased interest in Chinese language has helped broaden students’ horizons as much as it has expanded their language skills.

"Students of a foreign language see a world beyond their backyard," she said. "And many times they see the world in their own backyard in a different way."