Middle & High School Students Immerse Themselves in a Foreign Language | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Middle & High School Students Immerse Themselves in a Foreign Language 

Published July 21, 2015 at 10:08 a.m.

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click to enlarge Tai Chi Fan - ISAAC WASSUCK
  • Isaac Wassuck
  • Tai Chi Fan
Tong Chen has been MMLA’s Chinese Language Director for the past three years. During the school year, she teaches Chinese at Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School, a public school in Townshend, Vermont. She explained what the day looks like for Chinese Academy students. At 6:30 a.m., students can participate in optional classes including the martial art Tai Chi Fan or News Corner, where they discuss articles from Chinese newspapers. That’s followed by breakfast, then three hours of language class with a break after the first two for lunch. In the afternoon, students attend enrichment classes called Cultural Exploration, where they learn — in Chinese — about topics like calligraphy, traditional games and cooking.

Chen devised a system where students get play money for good behavior, active participation and helping each other. They can use it to “buy” traditional street-vendor foods like egg rolls, made by Chen’s parents, who stay near the college during the academy to help watch her 1-year-old daughter.

After dinner, students have an hour of free time, then take part in either student-interest clubs, one-on-one speaking practice with teachers, or watch Chinese movies or special performers. The day is long and students are tired by the end of it, Tong said, joking that “they dream in Chinese.”

Speaking in a non-native language is a rigorous experience, said Tong, and that sometimes means stress and frustration on the part of the students. She counsels them with this advice: “You’ll never be ready. Just jump into the waters. You’ll make mistakes” but “if you reach the goal of communicating with people, you’ve got it.”

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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About The Author

Alison Novak

Alison Novak

Alison is the former managing editor at Kids VT, Seven Days' parenting publication and writes about education for Seven Days.


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