More Lansing Students To Learn Chinese

By  | 

The tune was familiar -- the words, less so.

On this Wednesday afternoon, 30 or so pre-school children are singing a song in Mandarin Chinese to the tune of the old folk song "Frère Jacques" at Lansing's Post Oak Elementary School.

Now, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, more students will be joining them.

"I could read Chinese, I could speak Chinese, I could learn Chinese. I could write in Chinese," 9-year-old Josh Blake read from an essay.

Blake wrote the essay in support of his school's push for the $800,000 federal grant. The money will go to pay for Chinese cultural instruction throughout the grades at Post Oak and for more teachers for a larger immersion program of up to 120 students.

"We'll be able to expand it to kindergarten and the first and second grades," Post Oak Principal Camela Diaz said Wednesday.

The grant was announced at Michigan State University. MSU partners with Lansing to run its current Chinese program and will play a key role in the expanded program.

The Dearborn School District was awarded a Department of Education grant as well as one from the Department of Defense to expand Arabic language instruction there.

At the announcement, the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education explained why the federal government is getting involved.

"Various publications have indicated how small the world is becoming in terms of our need to communicate and interact with other countries, both from a national security perspective and a commerce perspective," Deputy Secretary Ray Simon said.

That is, the federal government hopes the children can become the diplomats and international businessmen and women of the future.

For now, the students have some more modest goals.

"I think it'd be really cool to learn, like, more than one language," Madison Hawkey said.

And a unique one at that, something Hawkey now has a chance to do.