Culture\Cultural Exchange

Students thrive on Mandarin learning at Chicago's top high school

China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-15 07:11

Upper schoolers at the Walter Payton College Preparatory High School like to warm up their get-togethers with a rendition of Jasmine, the classic Chinese folk song that US President Donald Trump's granddaughter performed months ago during her visit to the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

"Chinese is one of the most widely used language in the world. So I think learning it is super important, because so many different people speak it," Helen, a Payton enrollee, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Xu Qun, who came from China for her Mandarin-teaching job at Payton, has noticed for a long time the trendy choice among American children, saying that "I think a lot of children in the US are very young when they start learning Chinese. Some parents think Chinese is so important that they hire a Chinese-speaking nanny to look after their children."

Chinese learning highly valued

Founded in 2000, Payton is now one of the best public high schools in Chicago.

As one of the nine "selective enrollment" high schools in the city, it has prided itself on highly qualified learners who value Chinese lessons a lot.

"I personally find learning other languages very interesting, which is why I have taken two different courses of them. So I think taking most of the languages, like Chinese especially, maybe help me with career in some type of foreign language," said Helen.

In 2006, Payton joined hands with East China Normal University in Shanghai to co-found the Confucius Institute, which was then the only one of its kind at overseas secondary school in the world.

Students met their challenges as well as found opportunities at the institute.

"The most difficult thing I find personally is the tone marks. I feel like I don't pronounce tone marks correctly at times," said Ernest Rionaula.

Kaylee Zilinger echoed the views, saying "probably because as an English speaker, how the tonality works doesn't really matter. It is just like to show the emotion. But in Mandarin it can change the entire meaning of a word. So I have to be careful when I speak the tones."

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