[VIDEO] In Capo's Chinese Classes, Everything Is Going 很好

Orange County's first public-school Mandarin immersion program is attracting kids from all over the district – and beyond.

“Nín hǎo!”

That’s the greeting students in two kindergartens, a first-grade class and a preschool class hear each morning at Bergeson Elementary in Laguna Niguel.

“Nín hǎo!”

It’s said warmly by the teachers, and it’s even heard from Principal Barbara Scholl.

This is the first year of the districtwide Mandarin Immersion Program. Capistrano Unified School District was the first public school system in Orange County to approve one. Since then, officials at Orange Unified also decided to offer the program.

Students from all over the district and even as far away as Tustin and Anaheim are attending. Enrollment at Bergeson has grown by more than 100 students this year.

Capo has long offered a dual-immersion program in Spanish, and the Chinese program is modeled similarly, Scholl said, with the students spending 80 percent of their instructional day hearing Chinese, 20 percent in English.

Unlike the Spanish program, which brings together English-speaking natives and Spanish speakers in equal numbers, only a handful of students at Bergeson have had much exposure to Mandarin, Scholl said. But staff is ready to make up for lost time.

“Studies have shown that by at least third, fourth, fifth grades, they’re producing the same, if not exceeding the standards,” said Thalia Tong, a parent who worked hard to bring the program to CUSD.

Scholl said the district recruited for the new teaching positions – teachers must have a special bilingual certification to teach; speaking Chinese is not enough – for four months, receiving 22 applications.

“We feel like we got the best of the best,” she said.

Nichole Loh is the first-grade teacher, and is “super” excited to launch the program. She was with Capo teaching Chinese at Las Flores Elementary, route: {:controller=>"listings", :action=>"show", :id=>"las-flores-elementary-school"} --> and and

Gene Singleton September 19, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Kudos to the new Mandarin Chinese program! The teachers should integrate Mandarin Chinese dubbed movies into their curriculum. The movies come with both Chinese or English audio, AND English or Chinese subtitles to help kids understand better while not getting lost in translation. Movies such as Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, Home Alone, Finding Nemo, or even Harry Potter, High School Musical, and The Chronicles of Narnia. The best thing these are the movies the kids have been watching, and now with Chinese conversation, and English subtitles, making learning fun and efficient. There is also a great benefit when you use Mandarin Chinese dubbed movies. Our kids were in the Mandarin Chinese speech competition last year. At the suggestion of the coach, the team started watching these movies, and benefited greatly. They learned how to conduct conversations in Mandarin Chinese, but with the content they are familiar with. Google keywords "Chinese dubbed", and you can find a few, including http://www.ChineseDubbed.com and eBay!
Kids First! September 19, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Thank you trustee Alpay for getting this programmed approved
cusd mom September 19, 2012 at 07:04 PM
I'll Pay should not take credit for this. He should take credit for the union contracts and our kids losing out on 3 weeks of school.
Ami Barrett September 19, 2012 at 08:14 PM
As a non-Mandarin speaking parent in this program I can't say enough about how wonderful it is!! The teachers are fantastic and the parental involvement has just blown me away! My son loves going to school every day and can't wait to teach me my word for the day at pick up time! I too thank Trustee Alpay and the "Founding Families" for taking this program from theory to reality in such a short period of time! It's this kind of forward thinking that may just save public education yet!
S Cook September 19, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Let's not forget Steve Cook, who started the Chinese program in Capistrano Unified as an after-school Chinese club in 1997 and ended up teaching Chinese, K-12, at 4 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and Tesoro High.
New CUSD parent September 20, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Of course Trustee Alpay should take credit... He championed the effort and provided an option to the parents who wanted this program despite all the budget issues. There are people moving to CUSD for this program whose children are only 2 and 3! maybe for those parents who aren't happy with CUSD instead of complaining they should consider moving. Control your destiny...
cusd mom September 20, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I would give more credit to Steve Cook than a board member.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) September 20, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Just uploaded a video clip from the first grade.
Ed October 26, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Thank you to Thalia Tong, Barbara Scholl, Nichole Loh, Ms. Mainprize, and Ms. Shih! You are the ones who made and make everything happen for this program all year long. Thanks Penny for the great article!
Kyrsten Gallo February 27, 2013 at 09:33 PM
This is wonderful! We are relocating to the area just for this school. And if anyone has any recommendations for a Mandarin speaking nanny please respond!


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