Programs and Services
First National Chinese Language Conference
More U.S. students than ever before are eager to learn Chinese, but the number of available classes is very limited. Supporters of this effort understand that to sustain this momentum, the availability of classes must increase while maintaining the high quality of the program. This will require a strong and strategically designed national infrastructure to establish new programs with strong roots and to support existing high-quality Chinese language programs, like the College Board’s own AP® Chinese Language and Culture program, which has helped put Chinese on an equal footing with more commonly taught languages, such as French, German and Spanish. “AP Chinese has seen rapid growth and is expected to increase 50 percent by May to approximately 5,000 exams,” said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board.
A notable report, “Chinese in 2008: An Expanding Field,” was released at the conclusion of the conference and states that “today’s economic competitiveness and national security challenges mandate a larger pool of highly proficient speakers of a wider range of world languages, including Chinese.” It also affirms significant progress since a 2005 report by Asia Society called for efforts to expand the number of programs. Though a comprehensive survey of student enrollment is not available, data collected for the new report indicate that the number of Chinese programs in the United States has grown by almost 200 percent since tallies were last taken in 2004. Additionally, between 2005 and 2006, the number of students at the higher education level who were learning Chinese jumped by 52 percent.
The conference was organized by the College Board and Asia Society, with support from a number of professional language organizations, federal agencies and Hanban, the Chinese agency that promotes international awareness of Chinese language and culture. Plenary sessions included such topics as “Designing and Implementing Study Abroad Language Programs for Teens,” “Enriching Chinese Programs with Educator and School Connections” and “Infusing Chinese Culture into the Curriculum.” Keynote speakers — who included Rush Holt, U.S. Representative (D-N.J.); Madam Xu Lin, director-general of Hanban; E. Gordon Gee, president, The Ohio State University; and His Excellency Zhou Wenzhong, ambassador of China — offered various perspectives on the importance of promoting a strong understanding and building a shared future among Asians
Other highlights included a tour of Washington-area schools that offer Chinese language programs. This tour offered participants the opportunity to observe classes and meet the instructors who have pioneered these programs at their schools. An evening reception, sponsored by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States, featured exhibits from Cengage Learning–Asia, IQChinese and Youth for Understanding USA.
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