Ridgecrest students in the Chinese immersion program have recently begun to work on their Chinese after hours. Once each month, students in grades one through five meet after school in the library to practice speaking Chinese. A few teachers and parents help facilitate the meeting, along with some honored guests from the Chinese Society of Utah.
“I just can’t speak enough to how much the Chinese Society of Utah has contributed to our school,” Principal Teri Mattson said.
Chinese immersion students spend half of their school day with Chinese-speaking teachers and the other half of the day with English-speaking teachers. They learn the language by becoming immersed in it every day. In order to supplement what they learn in the classroom, the school has introduced Chinese Corner to give the students an opportunity to come together, speak the language and learn about the culture.
“We have about four to five people from the society come to Chinese Corner,” Chinese Society of Utah president Ling-Ling Chen said. “We have become good friends with the parents. We all have the same goal for these kids to learn, and we want them to like the language so they will keep it.”
The students participate in activities that improve social skills, all while speaking Chinese. They have had marketplace experience where they had to purchase and barter in Chinese. They have learned how to write their names using Chinese characters, and they even play familiar card games, speaking only in Chinese.
“We cooperate with each other,” Chen said. “We apply funding to come here and help them, and the school sends kids to our Chinese New Year banquet to sing Chinese songs. It turns out pretty well.”
“In China, they have an English Corner where they have to speak English,” parent and Chinese Corner coordinator Kami McMaster said. “The best thing for kids learning a language is to give them an opportunity to socialize in that language.”
McMaster has joined with other parents to form the Utah Mandarin Immersion Parent Council. The council meets twice a year with representatives from the state of Utah in an effort to maximize their children’s learning experience in the immersion program.
“It was at this forum that we heard about Chinese Corner and decided to start it here,” McMaster said. “The Chinese Society comes to talk to the kids in Chinese to give them an authentic experience.”
Because of the popularity of the gathering, the school has to limit the attendance to 35 students. Parents can go to the school’s website to reserve a spot for their children to attend.
“This school is really organized; the principal is really cooperative,” Chen said. “There are 22 schools in Utah with Chinese immersion. We started with this school, but we really want to do more.”
Much of the society’s funding comes from Taiwan Academy, which allows them to purchase supplies and treats for each Chinese Corner.
“We are trying to promote this so we can get more funding,” Chen said. “We want to spread the news so we are able to help at more schools.”