While most of their peers are learning Spanish or French, about 40 students at Mission Vista High School are going another route, learning Mandarin Chinese.
The program started this year after district staff realized that one of Vista Unified’s teachers already was credentialed to teach the language.
Jenny Chang worked as a special-education teacher for a decade at Vista High School before district administrators asked her to consider starting classes in her native language. Chang grew up in Taiwan and moved to the United States after finishing college.
This year, there are two beginning classes. In the future, Chang said she hopes to expand the program to include more students as well as more advanced courses. Culture is also a big part of the lessons.
It’s a good time for students to learn the language as it will become more important in the future, Chang said.
Mandarin Chinese has more native speakers than any other language, with nearly a billion.
However, it can be extremely challenging for English speakers because the alphabet is completely different, Chang said. Luckily, the students in the classes are working hard and doing well, she added.
“Kids really like it and they put a lot of effort into it,” she said.
Chang said she works to ensure that students can apply what they learn to real life.
“I just want it to be practical,” she said.
Karen Bojorquez, a senior at Mission Vista, said she has already been able to do that. Her father works for a company based in China and she has been able to converse with some of the people he works with in Mandarin.
“It feels good to know that you can communicate with people outside of your everyday life,” she said.
Bojorquez said she wanted to take the class because she’s interested in different cultures.
“I think it’s good to expand our horizons,” she said. “Also, I thought it would look really good on my transcripts.”
Alagia Cirolia, a junior in the class, said she was excited to learn more about Chinese culture since Southern California residents are typically already immersed in Spanish culture.
“There’s a lot less immersion in Asian culture,” she said. “I thought it would be interesting to dive into that.”
The students recently completed a video with a dialogue in Mandarin Chinese as class project. You can see it here.
Adding a new language option provides more choices to students and helps them meet college entrance requirements that prepare them to continue their education or move onto a career, Superintendent Devin Vodicka said.
“Our ability to offer Mandarin –language instruction is another step in the direction of achieving our vision to be the model of education excellence and innovation,” he said.