An Interview with a Chinese immersion graduate
Many parents want to know “what comes next” after their child finishes a language immersion program. To give parents a window into immersion outcomes, the International School of San Antonio interviewed a graduate of the Cupertino Language Immersion Program (CLIP). CLIP is one of the oldest Mandarin Chinese immersion programs in the country. The International School of San Antonio spoke to Anna Lund, now a senior at Trinity University.
Immersion is the More Effective Choice
Anna’s mother studied Japanese and spent two years in Japan. She signed up her two older sons for Japanese language classes, but later found it was not really enough to support language acquisition. When she heard about a lottery for a Chinese immersion elementary program in her neighborhood school, she registered Anna and her twin sister.
Fifteen years later, Anna went to an internship fair at Trinity on a whim. At the second booth that she visited, the staff took one look at her resume and said, “You can speak Chinese?! We have a job for you.” While in Taiwan on a University of California program, her sister bridged the language gap between the American students and the Taiwanese lab technicians. Both sisters have found that their language abilities have opened doors for them which would otherwise be closed.
Trade-offs Between Immersion and Traditional Programs
Like a lot of public immersion programs, CLIP is located within a regular school. Anna says that there was no difference in the academic standards for the immersion kids and the non-immersion kids. The immersion students did end up as a really tight-knit group, however. She remembers that the early years of the program were very rigorous and very focused on teaching the children reading and writing in Chinese. The immersion students certainly had more homework than their peers!
It was worth it, according to Anna. She has connected with people from her childhood neighbor, to friends in Taiwan through her ability to speak Chinese. When traveling in Taiwan, her mother said to her, in awe, “I forget that you can just walk up to anyone and talk to them.”
It was not just the language that Anna got from her program. Learning Chinese “built a level of perseverance” which has served her in other areas of life. Going through a language immersion program is hard, “but totally worth it.”