The Challenges of Learning Chinese

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When the IB Programme arrived at Shaker’s elementary schools last year, students said, “Ni hao” to an hour of weekly Mandarin Chinese language instruction taught by native speakers. This year, students said, “Zai jian” to an hour a week of social studies lessons.

Chinese instruction for elementary school students was added to meet the IB Primary Years Program language requirement, as “schools must provide instruction in the learning of a language other than the principal language of instruction of the school from the age of at least seven.”            

The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages recommends elementary school students experience language instruction 3-5 days per week for 30-40 minutes per class. Shaker students in grades 2-6 experience one hour of Chinese instruction once per week, and first graders have 45 minutes per week. Chinese classes replace a “special” class such as art or music one week and a social studies class the next.  

Correction: In an earlier version of this post and in the print edition of The Shakerite, the article misstated the frequency of weekly Chinese instruction for students in grades 2-6. It is once per week, not twice.

A version of this article appeared in print on 20 April 2012, on pages 8 and 9 of The Shakerite.

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