Our Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do You Teach Mandarin?
Mandarin is spoken by one in five people on the planet. Mandarin has been identified by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Defense as critical to our national security and to our competitiveness in the new global economy. It is estimated that by the early 2020s the Chinese GDP will surpass that of the US GDP5. As parents, preparing our children to fully engage in this new world order is our responsibility.
Learning Chinese provides a different type of training that other languages may not provide. Spoken Mandarin is tonal; words are distinguished by tone, or the way in which the word is pronounced with rising or falling pitch. English and many European languages are not tone languages (pitch is used to emphasize or express emotion, but does not alter the meaning of the word). Writing Chinese requires strokes that go in all four directions: up, down, left, and right, that are fitted together into a square shape. Writing English and other alphabetized languages on the other hand involve letters that follow one another linearly. All these differences provide a mental “workout” that boosts our children’s brain power!
Learning a second language does not conflict with learning English. Although children may temporarily lag behind in English compared with their monolingual peers, immersion students often surpass their peers after a few years.
What is Immersion Education?
Foreign language immersion is a well-researched educational approach in which the school curriculum is taught through the medium of a foreign language. At Wei Yu, our target language is Mandarin. Contrary to a popular misconception, a Mandarin immersion school is not a Chinese school. The subjects and content taught at Wei Yu are aligned to the California State Standards, meaning that Wei Yu teaches the same content as other public schools, except that the teachers deliver the content in Mandarin. For example, in Kindergarten Social Studies, most public schools center the topic around "My Community" where students learn about the neighborhood, post office, fire station, and family structure. In Wei Yu's case, students would learn about the postal system but learn the vocabulary in English and Mandarin.
In addition to the benefits of knowing a second language, exposing children to a second language at an early age stimulates the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills. Studies have shown that children in language immersion programs reach higher levels of language proficiency than those in other types of language programs while also demonstrating increased English vocabulary and overall enhanced cognitive development. Studies have demonstrated that bilinguals consistently outscore monolinguals on tests of verbal and nonverbal intelligence.
Why do you use an Immersion Model?
Young children learn language effortlessly. The earlier we introduce a second language, the easier it will be for children to absorb a new language from their environment. However, this window only exists until age 7 or 8. After that, it is considerably more difficult to speak the second language without accent and with fluent grammar.
Many of us have experienced learning a foreign language where it was taught as a formal subject a few times a week. Unless you had an opportunity to practice this foreign language outside the classroom continuously, it has most likely faded from memory. Learning Mandarin when it is used as the medium of instruction provides a meaningful social context in which to acquire language. Children will learn Mandarin as they gain new knowledge about the world. By surrounding children with Mandarin, we increase the chances that our children will be able to use Mandarin for life.
What is the difference between immersion and bilingual?
Bilingual education is a broad term used to describe several forms of education in which information is presented to students in two languages. Technically speaking, any school system that utilizes two instruction languages is bilingual. What differentiates these systems is the degree to which the languages are used as well as the program’s methods and goals.A bilingual program can be one in which one or two subjects are taught in a second language. In the US, a method used to teach language-minority students in public schools is also called bilingual.
Immersion education is a type of bilingual education in which the common curricular activities are conducted in a foreign language. In these types of programs the foreign language is the medium and the object of instruction. Through this method, learners study school subjects such as math, science, and social studies, in their second language. The main purpose of this method is to develop language proficiency in the foreign language in addition to English. The most commonly used definition of immersion comes from Fred Genesee of McGill University, one of the world's leading authorities on immersion education:
"Generally speaking, at least 50 percent of instruction during a given academic year must be provided through the second language for the program to be regarded as immersion. Programs in which one subject and language arts are taught through the second language are generally identified as enriched second language programs."
Will you nurture and help my (non-Chinese) child to achieve?
Wei Yu, like any specialized school, will have the same resources available to all students in order for them to succeed. The high level of Mandarin immersion at the earlier grades will help non-Mandarin speakers and Mandarin speakers reach the same level of language proficiency. Like in a typical public school, there will be progress reports and teacher conferences so parents are aware of their child's progress. Therefore, any issues that arise will be addressed as a team.
Learning a new language is akin to learning a new instrument. Just as children are able to learn to play a new musical instrument without their parents knowing how to play the instrument, children are able to learn Mandarin without their parents being fluent in the language. Students who need help with their homework will be able to attend an afterschool homework program staffed with Mandarin teachers.
Will learning a second language affect my child's ability to learn English?
The goal of a language immersion model is to gain high levels of proficiency in English AND in the secondary immersion language. Studies at nearby public district schools with Mandarin immersion programs have shown that students who are on the Mandarin immersion track perform better on California standardized English language and Math assessment tests, than students in the same school who are on the monolingual, English only track.
Are Immersion Education programs designed for specific target groups?
The school will be open to students from ALL backgrounds. Our primary purpose is to implement a STEAM based curriculum with the added benefit of learning Mandarin. Our goal is to deliver a 21st century education that will provide the next generation with the opportunity to succeed in a global economy.
What is a Charter School?
Charter schools are independent public schools that do not charge tuition and do not have entrance examinations. They are part of the state's public school system but operate independently of the traditional school district in which they are physically located. Wei Yu International Charter School will not have preferential attendance boundaries; anyone in the state of California is welcome to apply.
Who can attend?
Our charter school will be open to all residents of California. However, if demand exceeds spaces, we will implement a lottery system whereby Moreland School District residents will be granted preference.
Will there be tuition?
Like district public schools, Wei Yu will be funded according to enrollment, and receive funding from the district and the state according to the number of students attending. There are also various federal and private grants available which can be used to help subsidize the cost of running the school. In order to maintain an ideal student-to-teacher ratio or in other special circumstances, Wei Yu may ask for voluntary donations from parents or outside advocates of our program to help fund ongoing operations.
How many kids are you planning to have in a class?
Wei Yu’s current model is a 25:1 student teacher ratio from Kindergarten through eighth grade. Our goal is to reduce the ratio in grades K-3 by adding native Mandarin-speaking aides pending availability of additional funds.
What is Singapore Math? Why Singapore Math?
Singapore Math has become popular due to Singapore’s consistent top ranking on an international assessment of student math achievement. Singapore Math is a teaching method based on the math curriculum used in Singapore. While American math instruction often relies on drilling and memorization of many skills each year, Singapore math focuses on children not just learning but also truly mastering a limited number of concepts each school year. The goal is for children to perform well because they understand the material on a deeper level; they are not just learning the material for the test.
Will you be aligned to California Common Core State Standards?
Wei Yu will offer a curriculum which is aligned with California State Standards for English Language Arts, Math, Science, and History/Social Science in addition to other subjects considered essential for the balanced development of our students, such as music, physical education, and arts.
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