Scottsdale students learning Mandarin Chinese

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Six grade student Zach Glenn didn't think it'd be this easy, but he and his classmates at a Scottsdale school are quickly learning the basics of Mandarin Chinese.

It's the second year Scottsdale Unified School District offers the class at Cocopah Middle School and three other middle schools along with five of their high schools.

In the Fall of 2009, surveys were sent out asking parents which language they'd like to see in the children's school curriculum.

Mandarin Chinese lead the pack, said Jill Newburg-Campos, who heads the languages program at the school district.

"We have focused for some many decades if not centuries in this country on European-based languages but, as well, know the economics are tilting to the East and our kids are very aware of that," Newburg-Campos said.

"Last year, three weeks into the course, the students were doing four operations in math on the board and talking all in Mandarin," she added. "They become quite conversant and very steeped in Chinese and Taiwanese culture."

Newburg-Campos has also been surprised by the students' acceptance of a teacher who grew up in a different culture and speaking a different language.

Susan Thomas, principal at Cocopah Middle, said she embraced the program because she knew it would challenge her students.

Eight graders can now take Mandarin one and get high school credit, which allows them to take the Mandarin AP test when they become seniors.

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