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Chinese language learning booms in U.S.
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Chinese helps give U.S. school much-needed boost

Situated in the suburbs of San Diego, California, the Barnard Elementary School was on the verge of closing down due to underperformance four years ago. As a last resort for reincarnation, the school began to teach Chinese. Parents, administrators and teachers have been heartened by the results.

A sea change has occurred, and the students' performance has risen to a new level. As a result, the school was classified as a model in California, with other school headmasters now planning to follow suit.

"China has outpaced Japan as the second largest economy in the world, and it is becoming a major player on the international stage," Edward Park, the headmaster, said. "Studying Chinese can contribute to the upbringing of talents with an international perspective."

In early February 2010, Oregon passed a bill offering Chinese language opportunities to statewide public schools, becoming the first state in the United States to legalize the teaching of Chinese in its educational institutions.

Dennis Richardson, the state representative who authored the bill, said, "Chinese will be the global language of the 21st century."

"If the enormity of China's impact on Oregon, on America and on the world is destined to be a hallmark of the 21st century, Oregon students should be given every opportunity and encouragement to learn the Chinese language and experience China's culture, society and economic communities."

Chinese language classes mushroom across America 

The popularity of Chinese has been hallmarked by the creation of nearly 80 Confucius Colleges and roughly 100 Confucius Classes in 44 states. Statistics provided by China's Ministry of Education show another 50-plus colleges have been planning to set up Confucius Colleges with their Chinese partners.

Grant Gilreath, 25, a University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) student who majors in law, showed his near perfect mastery of the Chinese language by performing a traditional Chinese stand-up comedy show in various local dialects at a preliminary round of the 10th "Chinese Bridge" Chinese proficiency competition held last week at UCLA's Confucius College. His performance was rewarded with applause from the judges and the audience alike.

"I major in international relations, which include many courses on international politics and economics," he said, wearing a dark traditional Mao suit. "China is obviously very important to the United States. I have to master Chinese and gain my understanding of the country, as this means more job opportunities."

The major factors behind the boom of Chinese in the United States are that, aside from understanding age-old Chinese history and its fruitful culture, the mastery of Chinese can also help bring access to numerous economic opportunities in China.

"China's economic rise has made many students consider studying Chinese as a way of enhancing their economic opportunities in the future," Clayton Dube, Associate Director of U.S.-China Institute, University of Southern California, said.

"In addition to that, people are curious about Chinese culture. They are interested perhaps in Chinese films and other things, so they are studying Chinese language as a way of getting access to those things."

(Xinhua News Agency April 15, 2011)

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