Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Growth of Mandarin?

Sent to the NY Times, Nov 30
As evidence that "Non-Asians Show a Growing Interest
in Chinese Courses," (Nov. 29) and that "China may
have achieved a victory in American classrooms," the
Times reports that the student body of a bilingual Mandarin-English school in San Francisco is now 49 percent Asian-American, compared to 57 percent five years ago. The school informed me that their total enrollment is about 400. This means that the increase is only about 30 children.
Other cases reported by the Times also show only
modest increases and levels of interest in Mandarin. A
Mandarin heritage language school in New Jersey has
about 25 more non Asian-American children than they
did three years ago. Chicago?s enrollment in Mandarin
has increased from 250 to 6000 since 1999, but only
1.5% of Chicago public school students are now
studying Mandarin.
Declarations of "a victory in American classrooms"
should be based on stronger evidence.
Stephen Krashen

Krashen on rap

Sent to the News & Observer, Raleigh, NC
Vocabulary improvement: Libraries, not rap.
Durham educators (Learning by rapping has a different
beat.? Dec 14) apparently think that the way to
increase vocabulary is through rap tracks artificially
and awkwardly stuffed with big words ("My girl's so
affable and amiable, she's always acting conciliatory
and agreeable. You know there's no hierarchy in our relationship").
These educators need to take a look at the research.
There is overwhelming evidence that vocabulary comes
from wide, self-selected reading. People with large vocabularies report that they developed their vocabulary through reading, not through special programs or gimmicks.
The first step in improving vocabulary is making sure
students have access to lots of interesting, quality
reading, have time to read, and a place to read. I
suggest Durham educators think about improving school
and public libraries before investing in an unproven
Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California