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SMALL VOICES, SPEAKING CHINESE

Today’s Asbury Park Press has a feature story on the newly begun Chinese language program at the Red Bank Middle School.

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In just a couple of weeks, the kids have begun learning short phrases and songs in Mandarin, writes Press reporter Larry Higgs.

This is not the old-school phrase- and word-drill method of learning a foreign language.

“I put it in song and rhythm; it’s easier to remember,” said teacher Tsun-Ju Lin.

Even when she goes around the room checking homework, the basic exchanges of “please” and “thank you” are spoken in Mandarin.

“We do our daily communication in Chinese,” Lin said.

Mainly, though, the article focuses on the emerging demand for Chinese language instruction, and for teachers like Lin, and where they’re coming from.

Lin, says Higgs,

was one of nine teachers of Chinese who graduated from the Rutgers University World Language Institute over the last two summer sessions. Now, 61 future teachers are enrolled in that program, and demand is high for them, said Marion Yudow, the institute’s director.

“The problem is there is a shortage of teachers. The state asked us to develop a fast track for fluent speakers of Mandarin to attract people from other careers,” Yudow said. “We’ve developed a curriculum to give them a background in teaching.”

This is the first year Red Bank is offering five classes in Chinese for about 100 students from fourth to eighth grades, said Laura C. Morana, superintendent of schools. The borough is one of 20 districts in the state offering Chinese in some form, said state education officials.

“Chinese is considered a critical language by the (federal) government and the government is encouraging the study of Chinese,” Yudow said. “The economic factors with all the trade we have with China is contributing to the desire (to start Chinese language programs).”

In March, representatives from more than 50 schools, including five in the Shore area, attended a state Department of Education information session about adding Chinese to their world languages. That demand lead Rutgers to offer a fast-track program for people fluent in Chinese to get their teaching certification.

“We’re on the cusp of it and ahead of it,” Yudow said. “We’re one of 10 to 12 institutes in the country invited to apply for the Freeman Foundation grant and one of six programs in the country that got it.”

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