School's out for summer Mandarin

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The mention of summer camps generally conjures up images of fun activities and sport frolicking under a blazing midday sun. But in the United States things are changing.
SHINE

The mention of summer camps generally conjures up images of fun activities and sport frolicking under a blazing midday sun. But in the United States things are changing. When school breaks out at the end of term, American kids can’t wait to get to summer camps to take part in Mandarin learning classes. 

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Mandarin learning gains impetus on doorstep of US holiday through summer camp competitions

Elementary, middle and high school students in the United States can’t wait to embrace their annual scenario, when final examinations are still high on the agenda but the summer holiday is fast approaching for them to explore the world outside campus through field camps, volunteer jobs and, the most needed, Mandarin learning sessions. 

Flipping through local newspapers printed in Chinese language, you will see a full range of advertisements of summer activities aiming at teenagers with a focus on Mandarin learning.

Linguistic courses are common in various forms, while the spectrum has steadily expanded to speaking and writing contests and China trips to meet with new friends.

The China Press, a pillar Chinese-language newspaper, is now vehemently touting its 7th annual competition for children from 8 to 16 years old to exhibit their comprehension and utilization of Mandarin, with the enticement of a handful of trophies like cash and plaques engraved with winners’ names, as well as opportunities to get exposure on its multimedia publications.

The linguistic match was initiated in 2012 with an eye to ignite the sparks among American children to learn and use Mandarin. Due to the press’ credibility and the succession of the event, it has won wide recognition among children and parents and been elevated to a status above most other activities with similar schedules and purposes.

There are now approximately 5 million Chinese Americans, a great portion of them America-born, who coveted to grasp the father-country language in order to prevail in their own families and gain more stakes in future careers.      

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A number of other ethics are also joining the tide, with intention to cash in on the academic and business opportunities that have been arising out of China’s economic and cultural empowerment.

“The enthusiasm just can’t be contained. Even my white schoolmates are looking for classes taught in Mandarin,” said Jack, a 9th grader in New York.

The China Press just concluded its 6th contest in January, with meticulous selection from thousands of participants from New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, North Carolina and South Carolina. Four hundred of them entered the semi final.

Candidates must be born in America or had been in the country over five years. In the 5th contest held in June 2017, over 5,000 children submitted their works and some 20 were recruited to the final round to vie for the top prizes.

On top of the contest is essay writing. For the 6th version, the participants were required to write about “The Love I Find beside Me” or “Tell Us Something Interesting about Your Mandarin Learning Experience.”

Compared with top-notch matches, linguistic courses are offered in a more popular way. They are advertised in shoulder with tutor sessions for SHSAT and SAT, which are the thresholds for teenagers to get admitted respectively to the eight specialized high schools in New York and colleges or universities in the United States.

Huanyu, a Mandarin school based in Flushing, Queens, is one of the frontrunners to promote such courses. Classes are established on its campus for PK-9 students to spell, make sentences, read and write in Chinese.

For each summer holiday from July to August, the school runs on full capacity to offer whatever a Mandarin learner can think of to fulfill his academic perfection.  

Sunshine Academy, based in Fresh Meadow Lane, specifically operates a summer camp. It splits a day with English and math courses in the morning and Chinese and extracurricular lessons in the afternoon. Three meals are provided each day and one field trip is available every two weeks.

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“They are popular, but cost a lot. Hope they turn out to be wise investment,” Jack observed.

The not-for-profit US-China Strong Foundation said that as of mid-2017, some 400,000 American students learned Mandarin before they entered college, doubling the number in 2015.

Former US President Barrack Obama once set a target to propel the number of Mandarin learners in US kindergartens, primary, middle and high schools to 1 million before 2020, in order to enhance American kids’ global competitiveness.

There are still two and a half years to go to score the 1 million goal. The mushrooming Mandarin contests, summer courses and camps in Flushing and other parts of New York are expected to contribute to such a goal, either on cultural mission or out of commercial drive. 


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