East West Connection

Chinese large1.jpg

Confucius Institute and Georgia Pre-K language instruction partnership expands   The familiar…

Georgia (Jun 10, 2010)

Confucius Institute and Georgia Pre-K language instruction partnership expands
The familiar childhood classics “Frère Jacques (Are You Sleeping)” and “Happy Birthday to You” may never have been sung with as much expression as when a group of 20 enthusiastic preschoolers at the West Cobb Prep Academy in Marietta, Ga. were heard singing them in Mandarin Chinese.
    After just three months of Chinese language instruction made possible by a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Confucius Institute at Kennesaw State University and Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, the four- and five-year olds exude confidence in their nascent skills. They recite numbers from 1-100, days of the week, months of the year, animals, genders, body parts, shapes and colors. With little prompting, they follow instructions given exclusively in Chinese by their teacher, Fangly “Fran” Tan, a master’s student at Yangzhou University in China who works under a two-year contract with KSU’s institute. 
    “It’s something many of them can’t do yet in English,” said Bose Imoukhuede, owner of the culturally diverse early learning center, which also offers instruction in Spanish and French. “They have picked up Chinese so fast, and the parents are very impressed; more of them are requesting that their children take Chinese.”
    The two Chinese language classes at West Cobb Prep were among the first seven classes launched at three preschools in Cobb and Hall counties in October. By year’s end, the partnership will offer 17 classes serving 340 preschoolers in Cobb, Whitfield, Hall and Fulton counties.
    The rapid expansion of classes offered under this new partnership reflects a national trend toward an increased interest in Chinese language instruction in schools even as foreign language at U.S. schools is diminishing.
    No one is keeping an exact count, The New York Times recently reported, but calculations based on a federally funded survey by the Center for Applied Linguistics suggests that 1,600 public and private schools are teaching Chinese, up from 300 a decade or so ago. In addition, the College Board reports that Chinese has replaced German as the third most-tested advanced placement language, behind Spanish and French.
    One reason Chinese language instruction is flourishing is due to the efforts by China’s Office of the Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), which funds 282 Confucius Institutes throughout the world, like the one at KSU, which are designed to promote Chinese language and culture. In addition, the organization has been responsible for sponsoring hundreds of American school administrators and educators on visits to schools in China.
    The seed for the partnership between the Confucious Institute at Kennesaw State University and Georgia’s Bright from the Start department was planted when Special Assistant to the President for External Affairs Arlethia Perry-Johnson introduced Ken Jin, the executive director of the institute at KSU, to Georgia’s commissioner of early care and learning, Holly Robinson, in January 2009.
    “Promotion and support of Chinese language education in Georgia is a top priority for the Confucius Institute at Kennesaw State,” Jin said. “This collaboration with Bright from the Start is a very exciting initiative that will benefit Georgia’s children for many years to come.”
    According to experts, another main impetus for the surge in Chinese language instruction are parents like Shamikia White, mother of West Cobb Prep student Elijah, who believe that fluency in Chinese can help open doors later in life.
            “I was very intrigued by it,” White said. “Elijah’s very excited, and he’s teaching it to my 7- and 2-year-olds. The rate at which he’s learning is amazing. My 7-year-old has been studying Spanish for a while, but Elijah is much more advanced. I’d really like him to continue with Chinese after preschool.”
- Sabbaye McGriff


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu