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Mandarin Speech Contest Awards for Kids

Original post made by parent, Monroe Park, on May 4, 2007

Bucking the Local Trend, Hybrid Approach to Mandarin Education Nets Local International School Top Honors in Mandarin Speech Contest

April 27, 2007 MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA. — Reflective of California's growing interest in Mandarin education, nearly a thousand students representing 35 schools, from diverse ethnic & social backgrounds, gathered at Lowell High School in San Francisco, for a statewide Mandarin speech contest sponsored by the Chinese Language Teachers' Association on Saturday, April 21, 2007.

Yew Chung International School-Silicon Valley (YCIS-SV), a branch of the Yew Chung Global Education Network, in Mountain View, reports that over one third of their entrants took home honors, including a first place finish by 7 year old Yasmine Razzak, a Palo Alto resident from an English-only household, who won top prize in the 2nd grade non-native speaker category.

Other YCIS-SV winners included Ken Wen (winner of 1st place in the 3rd grade native speaker category), Anyka Chan (winner of 3rd place in the 1st grade non-native speaker category), Jillian Li (winner of "Honorable Mention) and Victoria Wang (winner of "Honorable Mention").

Mr. James Matthews, Principal of YCIS-SV, said "we're extremely proud of all of our students who participated in this competition, they all did extremely well, and we're particularly gratified that six of our 13 entrants won honors in the 9 categories we competed in. We think this validates our school's fun thematic hybrid approach to teaching Mandarin. We believe a hybrid approach makes Mandarin fluency more widely available than strict dual-immersion programs,”

For well over a decade, Yew Chung’s sister schools in Shanghai & Beijing have taught primarily non-Mandarin speaking expatriate children living in China. Bucking the local trend of dual-immersion, at Yew Chung International School, core classes such as Math, Science, and English Language Arts are taught solely in English by California-credentialed native English speakers. Only 30% of Yew Chung’s daily class time is conducted in Mandarin (about 1.5 hours per day) by a separate native Mandarin-speaking teacher who has been specifically trained in the Yew Chung methods.

Yew Chung credits the effectiveness of its Mandarin program to an emphasis on co-teaching, a highly developed curriculum specifically designed to teach Chinese as a Second Language (CSL), and an extensive creative and performing arts program. Students perform skits and school plays in Mandarin and/or English almost every other month.

According to Yew Chung Vice-Principal Helen Wong, “One of the most effective ways to teach children a foreign language, or any language, is to help them develop a positive association with it and to have fun, rather than use a drill and kill method.” This sentiment is at the heart of the successful Yew Chung hybrid approach to language learning.

Mandarin fluency for students coming from primarily English-speaking households –a fun and attainable goal, according to students, teachers, and administrators from Yew Chung International School.

Comments (11)

Posted by PA resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2007 at 11:02 pm

Strange - someone had already commented on this about how this is a different form of immersion from what MI proponents are discussing and apparently it works quite well.

My question - where did this post go? Did PA Weekly editors delete it, or am I going nuts?

Posted by MV Parent
a resident of Mountain View
on May 5, 2007 at 9:59 am

My daughter attends Yew Chung (YCIS) preschool 3 mornings a week. I really like the school and thinks their model works. The language split is 50/50 in preschool and then 70% English/30% Chinese in elementary. For each class, there is one teacher who speaks only English and one teacher who only speaks Chinese. The reason for the emphasis on English is that the administration (and parents) believe that it is more important to focus on the basics (English reading/writing, math, science) than Chinese. After all, after elementary, most of our students will attend English only junior high and high schools. So it is important for our kids to keep up with their mono-lingual peers academically.

Does it work? I think so. I think the kids pick up Chinese more slowly and maybe their Chinese is not as advanced as those in full immersion schools. But in observing the elementary school kids at Yew Chung, even the non-native speakers speak fluently and can write compositions in Chinese.

Posted by Parent of a YCIS Kindergartner
a resident of Green Acres
on May 8, 2007 at 12:13 am

I was uncertain of YCIS' Chinese teaching method when we first enrolled our daughter in the kindergarten class in Fall of 2006. Our son attended the Chinese class on Friday nights at JLS for three years and got to be real good at phonics (pi-ying?). YCIS does not use the same method.

Today, our daughter can read Chinese children's books, read essays, sing songs, write simple words, and converse with me with my rusty Mandarin. More importantly, she really does enjoy the Chinese classes and she is learning everything a regular kindergartener is learning.

Posted by Parent of YCIS K and Preschooler
a resident of Los Altos
on May 8, 2007 at 12:37 am

I have children in both Kinder and preschool grades. We are an English-only household, though I speak a very little, basic Mandarin (I am an ABC and my husband is Caucasian.) Neither girl spoke or understood any Chinese before attending YCIS last fall 2006.

Now, both girls understand basic phrases and commands, as well as are able to sing several Mandarin Chinese songs. My older daughter can even recognize approx. 45 Chinese characters. Most importantly, they both LIKE to learn Chinese! In the past, neither wanted to hear their grandparents speak in Chinese, and refused to listen.

I am so happy with their progress learning Chinese at YCIS, and I would recommend anyone who wants their child to learn Mandarin to enroll!

Posted by former parent of YCIS student
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 8, 2007 at 8:00 am

My son attended this school and I was very impressed with the entire program - - the Chinese lanuage learnig, the commitment and skills of the English teachers, the outstanding principal and the weekly violin lessons. This is a caring, nuturing school with the added bonus of language learning.

Posted by I don't Understand
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2007 at 8:39 am

Its amazing to hear that there is an alternative method learning Mandarin, other than full time, full fledged Mandarin Immersion, that actually works, in fact perhaps works better than the more intense method of immersion. Particularly in terms of stressing out the kids and balance.

This is not what we've been told by PACE and by Becky Cohn Vargas, Marilyn Cook and others, who said "obviously" immersion is the best method. Not so obvious after all. Shame on the staff who should have been studying this all along, and acted and spoke as if they had been.

Except Norm Masuda, the PAUSD World language Instructional Supervisor, who DID stand up in a board meeting and say that children, beginners even as old as high school age, were having great success in picking up Mandarin in high school classes.

So Why exactly is the school district consider this extreme program when there are other options, less extreme, that might be able to be used to provide not only part time successful Mandarin language, but perhaps part time language education in other languages also, to reach all our elementary kids.

What is driving a small group to care so much about serving 2% of the population, without even a moments regard for what can be done for the rest?

Posted by not so hard to understand
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2007 at 8:48 am

Understand --

It's pretty simple, really. Becky Cohn-Vargas loves to implement new programs -- she's said so. Repeatedly. Implementing an MI program would be a feather in her cap, as it would be for Ms. Callan (who will not have to deal with implementation, fallout, etc. since she is leaving -- just gets the benefit of listing on her resume that she was Superintendent here when an MI program was voted in).

Why does this small group care so much about benefitting 2% of the population? Again, simple. Their children are in that 2%. Otherwise, why would they have put in their letter to Dana and Mandy that a demonstration of good faith would necessarily include implementation of MI for fall 2007 -- after Susan Charles said three months ago that if it were not voted in in January it would not be feasible to implement for the coming school year?

All along, this has been a case of "we want what we want, and we want it our way, and we want it now." Otherwise, instead of forcing the issue here they would have looked at forming a charter in another city that is more receptive and able to handle housing and filling it.

Nothing hard to understand here, except how a group could be so myopic that they care only about their limited needs, regardless of the impact on the rest of the district.

Posted by Another YCIS Parent
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2007 at 11:00 pm

I have two children enrolled at YCIS (both preschoolers) and have also been very pleased with the school. My older daughter is in PreK and will be enrolling in Kindergarten next year. The teachers are great at encouraging an understanding and a love of the language and the culture. It's so wonderful to hear my children voluntarily singing, and asking me to sing, the Chinese songs they learn at school (their preference over their English songs). I cannot recommend this school, their philosophy, and their approach to teaching enough.

Posted by Another Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 9, 2007 at 5:58 am

I respect & support Becky Cohn-Vargas, Marilyn Cook, Ms. Callan, and Camille Townsend for embracing world languages and a forward-thinking international educational outlook and agree with them, that Mandarin is a logical additional priority foreign language choice given the realities of our global market.

I also understand that a child from an English-only household will need to get 3x more foreign language exposure and class time to gain fluency in Mandarin than he/she would need to gain the same level of fluency in a Romance foreign language like Spanish or French and that for this reason, MI may seem like the only viable foreign-language instruction model for proponents of Mandarin language education.

I sympathize, however, with parents who want a more inclusive world-languages elementary school program.

Perhaps effective international schools like YCIS can help light a way to a solution that will blend the goals of MI with the goals of people wanting more than MI –perhaps there is a way for MI to be creatively structured to maximize inclusiveness, choice, flexibility, and "exportability" to neighborhood schools, without sacrificing effectiveness, so that more children can benefit and more languages can be offered at the elementary level in PAUSD.

The YCIS model sure offers hope...seems like a great program.

Posted by still like it
a resident of Southgate
on May 11, 2007 at 7:04 pm

I like the idea of looking at alternatives. This is the kind of creative thinking that can bring us together in a productive discussion! Hats off to the problem solvers among us!

Posted by Wil Sinclair
a resident of Woodside
on Dec 7, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Our son attended Yew Chung for 2 years. During that time we saw most of the teachers leave, the principal get fired, and a group of parents start a new school with the disgruntled Vice Principal.

These and many other problems are documented in our Google group: Web Link

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