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St. Augustine students Expand Horizons with Mandarin Language Program

 Ms. Bing's Class

St. Augustine High School students are saying “N
ǐ hǎo” to a new Mandarin teacher, as the school is expanding its Foreign Language programs to include Mandarin Chinese.

Participating students will learn Chinese language arts from a native Mandarin teacher. The new, credit foreign language offering, makes St. Augustine the only non-public school in Louisiana approved to offer the program

Earlier this year St. Augustine welcomed new Mandarin teacher Bing Zhang, or Ms. Bing as her students call her, recently arrived from China. 

“Ms. Bing brings such an authentic perspective to the classroom, I think it’s mutually beneficial,” Dr. Kenneth St. Charles, St. Augustine High School president and CEO said. “She is learning a lot about education in the US and our culture and we learn a lot from her. Students are really getting a different perspective, which is enriching.”

The Chinese government is assisting with the program by funding the teacher through an international program, the Confucius Institute. The program is offered by Hanban, the Chinese educational organization that promotes improved cultural relationships and understanding between China and other countries. In New Orleans, the Confucius Institute initiative is sponsored by Xavier University of Louisiana. 

With nearly three million American speakers, Chinese is the second most common foreign language in the United States and is the most widely spoken language in the world. Further, Mandarin has been identified by the U.S. Department of Defense as a 21st century “critical language.”

Speaking Mandarin has also become attractive on college applications as well as a starred addition to executive résumés.

“Tomorrow's leaders must be able to compete, work and thrive in a globalized world with diverse, multilingual consumers and economies in which both China and the U.S. will continue to play major roles,” St. Charles added. ”I believe this offering will be important for students seeking a competitive advantage in the decades ahead," he added.

St. Charles, who traveled to China in June as part of a delegation of educational leaders and administrators to learn more about the initiative and to interview prospective teachers, noted that China has made substantial investments in English language learning. Almost all Chinese students are required to study English, which could give China's students a competitive global advantage.

“Beyond learning a second language, which is an important endeavor, we benefit as our students join other students from around the world by learning Mandarin language taught exclusively by teachers from China,” St. Charles said. “Our community benefits because we know that breaking down language barriers strengthens our ties to other cultures and other nations.”