Los Angeles County leads the state in the number of schools that offer bilingual education starting in kindergarten
Bilingual education for English learners, as it was once known in California, ended by law in the late 1990s. But in the years since, the popularity of a different kind of bilingual education, known as dual language immersion, has grown exponentially.
Unlike traditional bilingual education, it isn’t primarily designed to teach English to English learners. Rather, dual immersion is designed to teach school-age children to become fluent in a language other than English, whether it’s the parents’ native language or a new language that isn’t spoken in the home.
Dual language immersion programs have increased five-fold since the early 1990s in California; more than 300 schools in the state now have programs in languages that include Spanish, Armenian, German, Italian, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Japanese. The programs typically start in kindergarten, with native-speaker and non-native speaker children combined in one classroom.
Some immigrant parents see these programs as a way to pass along not just language, but also culture, traditions, and what can best be described as a special way of relating that can be lost in translation.
But it’s tricky. Aside from being competitive, dual immersion programs are optional and typically parent-driven. Some newer immigrant families aren’t necessarily aware of them, or prefer that their kids go into English-only classes. And while many experts tout these programs’ success, some families haven’t had the results they hoped for.
Below, a handful of parents who attended a recent KPCC forum on bilingual learning share stories about why they chose dual immersion for their kids. Most are immigrants; all wanted to pass along their heritage, with language as the primary vehicle. They talk about communicating with grandparents, holidays with special meaning, a certain sense of pride. If you grew up bilingual, or are trying to pass along the culture you grew up with to your kids, you’ll relate.
Hugo Enciso is a native Spanish speaker with roots in Mexico. His son is in the dual immersion program at Niemes Elementary School in Cerritos. For him, language and culture are inextricably tied.
Katja Jahn is an immigrant from Germany who wants to pass her culture along to her son. She’s on the board of trustees at Goethe International Charter School in Marina del Rey, which her son attends.
Josefina Vargas grew up in the U.S. as an ESL (English as a Second Language) student. She says learning in Spanish made it harder for her to learn English, so she was at first hesitant to enroll her kindergartner in dual immersion at the Los Angeles Leadership Academy.
Taina Franke is a parent of two sons, the oldest of whom attends the Goethe International Charter School. She talks about her own father’s struggles with language when his family moved from his native Finland to Germany.
Lantern Festival lights up LA, concludes Chinese New Year
Amy Lieu |
People visit a lantern show to celebrate the Spring Festival on February 17, 2013 in Guangzhou, China. The Chinese Lunar New Year of Snake also known as the Spring Festival, which is based on the Lunisolar Chinese calendar, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the Fifteenth day.
The Chinese New Year celebration ends on the 15th day of the lunar new year. The Lantern Festival draws the cultural holiday to a harmonious close.
Although the actual date this year was last Sunday, Feb. 24, the Chinese American Museum will still host its 12th annual Lantern Festival this Saturday, March 2 in Los Angeles. Admission is free.
Michael Truong, education programs manager of the Chinese American Museum, says that the festival is an educational tool to make Chinese culture accessible to the public. It allows the community to learn and appreciate the history, traditions and customs of this Chinese holiday, Truong said.
Truong says that the event is a cultural celebration to close out the new year. The San Gabriel Valley and Chinatown have already had luna celebrations during the two-week holiday, so "we feel that the Lantern Festival is a way to commemorate the ending of the New Year," Troung said.
The Lantern Festival's history and origins have many interpretations. According to ancient mythology, a villager had accidentally killed the favorite phoenix that belonged to the god, Jade Emperor of Heaven, Truong says. This prompted him to destroy the village on the 15th day of the new year.
One villager suggested lighting lanterns, so on the 15th day, the villagers lit thousands of lanterns. When the god looked down from heaven, he thought the village was already on fire and decided to spare the villagers' lives — thus came a yearly celebration of the anniversary of the villagers' survival. Truong says the Lantern Festival lights the way to a prosperous new year.
UC Irvine History Professor Yong Chen gives another interpretation. He says that the Lantern Festival is on the 15th day for both Buddhist and Taoist religious reasons.
Buddhists worship Buddha on the 15th, while Taoists worship an important god on the 15th. Both religions use red lanterns to observe the tradition. "Red is also an auspicious, festive and cheerful color," Chen said.
He added that on the 15th day of the lunar year is a full moon, which signifies that the spring season has arrived. This is a time when the planting season begins and people pray for good harvest, Chen said.
People also want to celebrate under the full moon. The red lanterns "help light up the village, because in ancient times, there was no electricity," Chen said.
The Lantern Festival is from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, March 2. It will include various festivities and "encompass all parts of the culture," Truong says. Here are the four main parts of the event:
There will be over 20 stage performances every hour on the hour from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., including lion dances, Chinese folk dances and magic shows. The Silver Dragon stage performance will end the night.
Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts are also a big part of the festival. There will be 14 workshops teaching how to make various Chinese-themed arts and crafts, including abacus making, red envelope making, kite making and — of course — lantern making. The workshops are taught by volunteers. The museum staff trains the volunteers on how to make the arts and crafts, who in turn teach the public.
The Chinese American Museum will have extended hours until 7 p.m. for visitors. Currently, there are three main exhibits featured at the museum.
Local food trucks Kogi BBQ Taco Truck, LudoTruck and Fluff Ice will serve food. For more information, visit theirevent pageon Facebook or their website.
Want to make your own lantern? Here's a step-by-step guide:
1. Get a sheet of construction paper.
2. Make a drawing.
3. Fold the paper in half lengthwise.
4. Cut strips about 1/2 inch apart.
5. Unfold the paper.
6. Tape the edges together.
Here is your final product!
The Chinese American Museum has more than 35,000 visitors a year. The historic building is one of the only existing buildings from Old Chinatown, as opposed to the Chinatown we know today.
The museum is located across from Union Station and south of Olvera Street. Check out our map below: