Chinese Program at St. Vincent College Aims to Fill Need

By Reeger, Jennifer | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 2, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Chinese Program at St. Vincent College Aims to Fill Need


Reeger, Jennifer, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


In unison, Angela Xiao's students repeated the Chinese tongue twisters, with the tonal quality of the pronunciations sounding almost like a song.

For students like Justin Tantlinger, a graduate of Laurel Valley High School, the elementary Chinese class at St. Vincent College is their first exposure to a language spoken by 25 percent of the world's population.

"It's just a wonderful experience," said Tantlinger, 18, a freshman majoring in business management. "You don't get to experience this in high school."

St. Vincent received approval from the state Department of Education to offer a program leading to certification to teach the Chinese language to elementary, middle and secondary students.

"In almost every opportunity I've had to talk to school districts, that's one of the areas they're looking to add, and there's very few Chinese certified teachers in the schools currently, so we're looking to meet that need," said Veronica I. Ent, chair of the education department.

The University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pennsylvania are the only other places in the state where students can study for teacher certification in Chinese.

The St. Vincent program blends classes from the education, history and world, and classical languages departments at St. Vincent.

Students will typically major in history while taking appropriate Chinese language and education courses. They will have to student teach and study abroad before graduation.

"We know that there's a big demand for Chinese teaching in the local schools that can't be filled because there aren't any certified teachers or there are very few," said Tina Phillips Johnson, assistant professor of history, who directs a program that sends teachers from China to local schools.

Experts agree that Chinese language programs and the need for them are growing, as China becomes a greater economical, technological and scientific power.

"If the United States wants to remain competitive in the global marketplace, we need to have citizens who are knowledgeable about Chinese language and culture," said Doreen Blandino, chair of the languages department at St. Vincent.

An accurate figure on the number of Chinese language programs in the United States is difficult to determine because data is hard to come by, said Jeff Wang, assistant director of Chinese Language Initiatives for the Asia Society, which works to strengthen relationships between American and Asia.

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