About the Mandarin Immersion Program


Bringing up children to be bilingual is an important decision. It will affect their identity, social arrangements, schooling, employment, marriage, area of residence, travel and thinking. Becoming bilingual is more than owning two languages. Bilingualism has educational, social, economic, cultural and political consequences. – Colin Baker, A Parents' and Teachers' Guide to Bilingualism

Woodstock Elementary School, Hosford Middle School, and Cleveland High School (all in southeast Portland) host a Mandarin Immersion Program (MIP) that began as part of the Oregon Chinese Flagship, a K-16 program. It offers a 50/50 instructional model from kindergarten through 5th grade. Students spend half their day learning in English and the other half learning in Mandarin. The program is structured on the total language learning approach incorporating content-based instruction, explicit language instruction, and experiential language learning practices. Students learn the simplified Mandarin writing system, or hanzi. Expressive and receptive language development is emphasized in all stages of the program.

Beginning in 2014, Portland Public Schools is balancing the student enrollment in the MIP for 50% English speakers learning Mandarin and 50% native Chinese students, often but not always English Language Learners. The program's Mandarin language teachers are native speakers who have been educated in China and the United States. By the end of 5th grade, a child in the MIP should be able to carry on a conversation in Mandarin; be familiar with aspects of Chinese culture, history and geography; and be able to demonstrate an awareness of him or herself as a citizen of the world.

What skills will my child learn?

Second language learning enhances a child's overall cognitive development and problem-solving skills. Fluency in a second language is most easily achieved at a young age.

Kindergartners learn simple words and phrases, greetings and courtesies, rhymes, songs, and how to write basic Chinese characters. In older grades, they learn more characters and develop correct form and stroke order in the pictorial Mandarin language. Students will become more aware of Chinese culture, both present and past, including holidays, folklore, occupations, and traditional crafts. Mandarin and English-language teachers work together to integrate lessons in science, math, art and other subjects so that students begin thinking in and using both languages.

The goal of this program is to create a high mastery of the language, for a student to be functionally proficient in speaking, reading, and writing in Mandarin and have a strong appreciation for cultural diversity. The program’s instruction emphasizes not translating into English or using pinyin, especially in the early years. For non-Mandarin speaking parents this can be challenging, but there are resources in the MIP to help parents learn how to assist their children with Mandarin learning. Mandarin Homework Help is also available after school.

How is the program funded?

Like all public school programs, the Mandarin Immersion Program is supported through tax dollars. Shu Ren was founded to contribute to the success and continuance of the MIP by raising money to support various programs. Shu Ren’s fundraising happens through several events and parent initiatives over the year, and through membership dues. Donations to Shu Ren are tax deductible and gratefully accepted. Please go to the donation page if you wish to make a contribution.

For additional information:

The Mandarin Immersion Program overview on the Woodstock Elementary website.

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