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Partnership addresses need for Chinese language classes


June 24, 2008

ASU in partnership with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Prescott has received a grant from STARTALK for combined summer programs for K-12 teachers and students of Chinese. STARTALK is a nationally-funded initiative that seeks to expand and improve the teaching and learning of Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Persian, and Urdu, which have been defined as strategically important world languages.

Professor Madeline Spring, director of ASU’s Chinese language flagship partner program, says schools across the country have been trying to implement Chinese language programs because of parent and child interest, but there are not enough teachers.

STARTALK is focused on training current and potential teachers of Chinese in Chinese language pedagogical methods and approaches, by providing a graduate-level course in Tempe and multiple opportunities to practice teaching with the upward-bound high school students who are in the STARTALK student program at ERAU in Prescott.

Last summer STARTALK awarded $100,000 grants to 34 programs in 21 states.; this summer 81 programs nationwide have been funded. The ASU-ERAU grant pays for all expenses, such as books, tuition and lodging in Tempe and Prescott.

“It is a great opportunity for us to reach out to the community,” Spring says. “There is a huge demand for improving the level of expertise for teachers of Chinese.”

There is no specific certification for teachers seeking to teach Chinese in K-12 schools in Arizona, other than the general education certification. Spring is working with the Arizona Department of Education to address this issue.

She adds that the demand for Chinese-language programs is not coming primarily from Chinese-heritage families. More people are adopting children from China, and others want their children to be globally aware of the influence China has on the U.S. market.

The School of International Letters and Cultures at ASU is involved in many other programs to expand the Chinese language and culture programs, such as the Flagship program, the Confucius Institute, and the Center for Asian Research. All these programs support language instruction, which will help qualified individuals enter the world of teaching in America as well as abroad.

“It is very exciting,” Spring says. “People throughout Arizona are thrilled to have all these resources and connections at ASU.”