Demand increases to learn Chinese


When kindergardner Quinn Vamosi started school - she didn't know a single word of Chinese. But in her Mandarin immersion program at Jose Ortega Elementary School in San Francisco - she spends 80 percent of her day learning in Chinese.

"Within the last six months she's picked up the language and she can converse with our native speaking neighbors," said Robert Vamosi, parent.

This is the first year this school has offered the program and only nine students took advantage it. But with parents like Quinn's dad spreading the word - now they have 23 applicants for next year. The school district loves the enthusiasm, but is now struggling to find teachers who can keep up with the demand.

"There aren't many colleges that are producing Mandarin credentialed teachers. So those few pool of teachers we're going to have to go after them and sell them on coming to our district," said Carol Lei, SFUSD Mandarin immersion coordinator.

They're competing nationwide and within their own city. San Francisco is home to the private Chinese American International School, which is also enjoying this new surge of interest in the Chinese language.

"Our applications have increased three fold or 300 percent," said Andy Corcoran, Exec. Dir., Chinese American Intl. School.

The school is so concerned about keeping up with the demand - it's hosting a conference this weekend to promote Chinese teaching programs. Educators are hoping guest teachers from China can help fill the gap while American teachers get up to speed.

"You don't get a teacher by snapping your fingers and saying now you're a teacher, there's a lot of training that's really important," said Andy Corcoran.

Quinn's parents are sure hoping the number of teachers will soon catch up with the demand. They plan to enroll Quinn's 3-year-old little sister in the Chinese immersion program, too.

"At home she asks to go to the bathroom in Mandarin, and she's very proud of the fact that she knows a different language it's been a lot of fun," said Robert Vamosi.

Educators are not only reaching out to teachers but also to publishers. Because there's a shortage of teaching materials, educators think it's critical to catch up to the demand in the next 3 to 5 years.

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