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Immersed in a new language

Published: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 9:58 a.m. CST
Caption
(Doug Oleson - doleson@shawmedia.com)
An umbrella dance was one of the skits the two teams performed.
Caption
(Doug Oleson - doleson@shawmedia.com)
Pictured in the front row from the left are Mariah Torchia, Emma Schnulle and Chanel Bedford. In the back are Olivia Echevarria and Katie Steimel.
Caption
(Doug Oleson - doleson@shawmedia.com)
The children took turns telling stories and singing folk songs.

DeKALB – Chinese food, dragons and communism – those were among the few things local students said they knew about Chinese culture before taking the 12-day Startalk Summer Chinese Immersion Program at DeKalb High School.

The program is part of the federally-funded Consortium of Illinois Language Schools. Instructor Lifang Tsou, who also teaches at Glenbard West High School, said the purpose of the program is to teach children between the ages of 6 and 12 about Chinese language and culture. Although the program started in 2006, this is the first year it was presented in DeKalb. Tsou said there are several programs in the Chicago area; this is an effort to expand westward.

“I hope we can open the door for the students to learn about the Chinese culture,” site director Linda Ma said.

Students are exposed to a lot of information very quickly, Tsou said, and some get overwhelmed.

“A lot of kids feel like quitting after the first two days,” Tsou said. “But then they get the hang of it. It’s amazing how much they get in such a short time.”

Sara Larson, 10, of DeKalb said she liked the way teachers helped students “even if you were the only one struggling.”

Another student, Brendan Prosser, said his father convinced him to try it, and he would like to go again next year. “I’m very opinionated, but I like to get my facts first,” he said.

“I truly believe we should learn something new every day,” assistant DHS principal Jennie Hueber said. “And these kids learned a lot the last two weeks.”

To show some of what they learned, the students performed a program July 2 that included dances, a poetry reading, a folk song and a camp song. Perhaps the highlight was Chinese YOYO, in which students tried to flip a colorful plastic bowl into the air and catch it using strings and a stick.

“It’s very hard to do,” student Chanel Bedford said.

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