ShareThis Page
Students to speak a new language |

Students to speak a new language

| Wednesday, July 26, 2006 12:00 a.m

Chinese and Russian – two of the most commonly spoken languages in the world – will be taught in some Pittsburgh Public Schools this fall, and Upper St. Clair will offer Chinese in January.

Both districts recognize the might of China’s growing economy.

“Certainly, Chinese is the No. 1 language in terms of the number of speakers,” said Thekla Fall, Pittsburgh’s curriculum supervisor for world languages. Chinese ranks first with more than 1 billion speakers, and Russian places fifth with about 277 million.

“It’s up-and-coming, as far as trade and commerce with the United States and throughout the world,” Fall said. “It’s listed as one of the critical languages by the (U.S.) government.”

If approved by the Pittsburgh Public Schools board, Ying Ying Shih, 32, of Shadyside, will teach Chinese at Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill. She has taught the language at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and at after-school programs at Shady Side Academy in Fox Chapel and The Ellis School in Shadyside.

A native of Taiwan, Shih plans to teach about 500 of the 60,000 characters in the Mandarin alphabet and basic grammar. Her students will learn how to distinguish the four tones, which affect meaning of a word, and how to write.

“I won’t say it’s very, very hard,” she said. “It depends on students’ motivation.”

Russian will be taught at Perry Traditional Academy on the North Side. For the past two years, introductory classes in Russian and Chinese were offered only to gifted middle school students.

Sterrett Classical Academy, a middle school, offered Chinese more than 20 years ago, but this might be the first time it is being offered at a high school in the district.

Upper St. Clair High School will offer an Asian studies course this fall and Chinese in the second semester.

“The reason we are doing both of these is because of China’s increased role in business and in culture,” said Deanna Baird, foreign language curriculum coordinator for the district.

The local school with the longest history of teaching Chinese is Shady Side Academy. This fall marks the 20th year it is offering the language.

To mark the occasion, Shady Side will host the Golden Dragon Acrobat Troupe on Oct. 6 as the first event in its Hillman Center Performing Arts Series.

Sixty of its 500 students take Chinese mostly because of its popularity in the world, said Tom Trigg, interim head of Shady Side’s senior school.

“Second,” he said, “there’s a cachet for what in American education is an exotic language. We find at Shady Side that many students pick up Chinese as a second or third foreign language.”

The state does not require students to take a foreign language. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 795 public school pupils, including those in the South Side Area School District in Beaver County, studied Chinese last school year, and 405 studied Russian, including some in the Pine-Richland School District. Another 1,384 students took Japanese, including those in Mt. Lebanon, Pittsburgh, Shaler, South Fayette and Upper St. Clair.

Pittsburgh Public Schools is thinking of adding even more languages, including Arabic and some from India and Africa.

“We need to look at languages that are necessary in the political arena,” said Deputy Superintendent Lynn Spampinato. “We’re looking at critical languages for students moving into careers with international aspirations.”

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.