5th Grade Students Learn Chinese

5th Grade Students Learn Chinese
Posted on 05/04/2015
This is the image for the news article titled 5th Grade Students Learn ChineseJohn May '80 and 5th grade teachers at SCCS, Toby Notestine '71 and Marci Wheeler have teamed up to help teach their kids the Chinese language.  They worked together to develop a six week block of instruction focusing on the spoken word.  The class included visits with international students from China that now attend SMCC and a trip to Tokyo Rock to sample the flavor of the culture.

John studied Chinese as part of his education and training to be a Foreign Area Officer (FAO) in the Marines.  As part of his training, he had to spend a year doing in-country-training in China to increase regional/cultural expertise.  During that time, he did his post graduate work at Capital Normal University in Beijing and travelled extensively throughout China and most of the bordering areas.  With the Marines, John has served as Associate Vice Chancellor for Directorate Continuing

Education and Advanced Language Studies among many other duties. "At the height of my proficiency, I was rated as having a Level 3 in reading, listening, and speaking; this is called "professional working proficiency and a person at this level is described as able to speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most conversations on practical, social, and professional topics," he explained.  However, John is quick to point out that he may not be at the top of his language game right now though, "Language proficiency is a perishable skill and my current level is barely good enough to teach 5th graders the most rudimentary foundations of the language," he laughs.


The kids are doing a great job of learning the language and can understand John when he speaks Mandarin and some can reply with full sentences. "Studying Chinese is no small undertaking; it's classified as a Category IV language which identifies it as one of the hardest languages for native English speakers to learn. (By way of comparison, Spanish is a Cat I, German is a Cat III, and Arabic is another Cat IV.)" said John.


"It's great that Mr. Notestine and Mrs. Wheeler decided to do this! The more exposure to foreign language and culture we can provide for these youngsters the more globally competent they can hope to be," said John.

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