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Former Alpharetta High Teacher Brings Mandarin to Riverwood

Xiajun Zou, formerly of Alpharetta High School, launches a Mandarin language program at Riverwood, this year.

The world just got a little smaller for Riverwood. The International Baccalaureate high school has added a new world language to their curriculum: Mandarin Chinese.

The program is launched by Xiajun Zou, who taught at Alpharetta High School. Zou taught multiple academic levels of Chinese for many years. A Chinese national, she taught English in her home country before emigrating to the U.S. in 1999.

A parent and stakeholder survey in the spring of 2012 on language offerings echoed the interest of school administration. That inspired principal Chris Triolo and assistant principal Opie Blackwell, who worked jointly with Fulton County Schools’ world language department, to go forward with the Mandarin program.

“Our goal at Riverwood is to find meaningful learning opportunities that strengthen our internationally-minded curriculum, our student community’s cultural awareness and connectivity, and their preparation to compete in the international arena," Blackwell said.

Prior to teaching at AHS, she started and developed the Mandarin program in a Dalton County high school and within four years had 160 students enrolled. She hopes to begin the program at Riverwood with 20-30 students. Other RICS world languages include French, Spanish and Japanese.

“As China continues to develop its formidable presence in the world and global economy, its language and culture are becoming more attractive all the time,” said Zou.

Fun facts about Mandarin and China:

  • China is the second largest economy in the world, according to the IMF World Economic Outlook Database report in October 2010
  • Approximately one billion people in the world speak Mandarin Chinese
  • There are over 100,000 Chinese characters
  • Mandarin is one of the fastest growing world language taught in U.S. schools. In Fulton County, nine schools are currently teaching Chinese
  • Chinese has a surprisingly uncomplicated grammar: no verb conjugation; no distinction between singular and plural nouns, and basic word order (subject-verb-object) is the same as English
  • A word in Mandarin can have up to four different meanings depending on the vocal tone used
  • Business leaders are looking for people who speak Chinese and understand the culture
  • Many local colleges and universities teach Mandarin programs (University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Emory University, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, and Morehouse College)
Gene Singleton September 15, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Kudos to the new Mandarin Chinese program and the new teacher ! This is to suggest that we can integrate Mandarin Chinese dubbed movies into the curriculum. The movies come with both Mandarin Chinese or English audio, AND English or Chinese subtitles to help kids understand better while not getting lost in translation. Search Chinese dubbed movies in Google, and you should find movies such as Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, Home Alone, Finding Nemo, or even Harry Potter, High School Musical, and The Chronicles of Narnia, or The Pursuit of Happyness for people doing business with Chinese companies. Kids can even learn American history by watching Chinese dubbed Gone With The Wind, National Treasure, and others. The best thing these are the movies the kids have been watching already, and now with Mandarin Chinese conversation, and English subtitles, that really makes learning fun, and more efficient. There is also a great benefit when you use Mandarin Chinese dubbed movies. Our kids were in the Mandarin Chinese speech competition last year. At the suggestion of their coach, the team started watching these movies, and benefited greatly. They learned how the conversations are conducted in Mandarin Chinese, but with the content they are familiar with already. Google "Chinese dubbed" or "Chinese dubbed movies", and you can find such great sources. Believe me, kids can have great Mandarin Chinese immersion with these movies. Mandarin Bees Program

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