April 22, 2011
Mandarin immersion or an Academy of Romance culture.
What about an immersion school for Romance languages, a modern Latin Academy?At the recent reception to launch the conversation with Asia, I met a gentleman from Alberta who is Chinese, married to a Canadian, and whose kids go to a Mandarin-English bilingual school in Edmonton. He said he is really having trouble with his son who is in grade 7. The son claims to have real trouble understanding what is going on, especially in maths and science, and it is difficult to ask questions, since most of the students are Chinese, and he feels like a fool. He wants to quit and his Dad does not want to allow him. The family speaks English at home. The son wants to learn Spanish.I told him to let his son quit and learn Spanish. He can always go back to Chinese later if he wants to. Then I thought about the wisdom of these immersion schools in general, and all the hype surrounding learning Chinese, the “future language of business”. Why not just let people learn what they want for more basic human reasons, like their interest in the culture? The Chinese speakers are probably suffering in terms of their English development, and few of the non-Chinese, if they survive the program, will use it for business.I think that an alternative to an immersion program would be a school program focused on a certain culture or language. So a Chinese academy would offer a heavy Chinese culture, history, geography, modern culture etc. program, all in Chinese, however all the normal curriculum items, maths, science etc. would be covered in English or the native language of the majority.One variant of this could be a Latin Academy, where the focus would be a rich program on the literature, culture, history etc, of Rome and Romance culture up to modern times, including all the modern Romance languages, with some options for focusing on one or two of them.
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