Because it is the single language spoken by more people on the planet than any other, schools are having Mandarin added to the foreign language curriculum.
In Napa County, California, American Canyon middle and high school will add an elective course in Mandarin Chinese during the next school year. The course was approved by the Napa Valley Unified School District’s board.
According to Mark Brewer, principal of American Canyon High School, up to 168 students will be allowed to enroll in the program. Four class sections will be available at the high schol and one at the middle school. Students enrolled at other district schools may also participate.
The Chinese program is meant to give local teens an entry point not only into the most widely spoken language — some 848 million people speak the Mandarin dialect worldwide, according to the Ethnologue, a reference work on world languages — but also into the second-largest economy and a culture thousands of years old, said Brewer.
“Everybody does business with China, on a massive scale, including the United States,” he said Monday. “This is a skill set I believe benefits people greatly as they move into the workforce, especially in the Bay Area. (And) learning it with the artistry and the characters, it’s very engaging. It’s not like learning Spanish. It’s not like learning any other language.”
The five-day-a-week Mandarin Chinese program, which will use online language websites and textbooks from EMC Publishing Co., will combine reading, writing and speaking instruction with material designed to develop awareness of Chinese culture, according to a course summary released by Napa Valley Unified. Instruction will be mainly in Chinese with daily preparation and practice.
Two years in the Mandarin course will satisfy the language requirements for enrolling in California’s two four-year university networks, school and district officials said.