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Federal grant will jump start Mandarin classes

District 833 officials are looking to prepare its future workers to compete in a global marketplace with an after-school Mandarin Chinese language program.

The district's community education and curriculum departments, with the blessing of the board, is offering Mandarin Chinese language and culture classes before and after school beginning this week and running until May. 17.

The classes, for $40 a child, are timed to coincide with twice weekly after-school activity buses at elementary schools.

A Mandarin Chinese class was also offered during the summer.

An initiative from the state Legislature and approved by the governor during the last session encourages offering Mandarin Chinese statewide. In August, District 833 was selected to participate in the statewide program by the Minnesota Department of Education.

The classes emphasize listening, speaking and responding in Mandarin. In addition, an overview of the written word Pinyin, the Chinese phonetic character script, is offered with each lesson.

The district also recently received a $175,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to continue teaching Mandarin Chinese and offer it during the regular school day.

The grant, for the first year, is for planning on how to deliver the language program. According to Sen. Norm Coleman's office, the grant is expected to continue for two additional years but the district is unsure what the future grant amount will be.

The National Commission on Excellence in Education maintains that achieving proficiency takes from four to six years of study and is best begun in elementary schools.

Recent brain development research supports the initiation of learning a second language during elementary school years to take advantage of the natural process of acquiring language.

According to a forecast by the World Intellectual Property Organization, Chinese will surpass English as the most-used language on the Internet by 2007.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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