For the teachers and students of the International Leadership of Texas (ILTEXAS), a public charter school in the northern Texas city of Dallas, the Chinese language is considered as a strong bridge of friendship between different cultures.
Founded in 2013, the ILTEXAS, home to around 5,000 students, is the largest school system in the United States that requires all students aged 5-18 to master the Chinese, English and Spanish languages to adapt to the highly competitive international community in the future.
Laura Carrasco, chief academic officer of ILTEXAS, told Xinhua that the Chinese language is highly valued as Texas’ top three export countries are China, Mexico and Canada.
China has become the second-largest economy in the world, and now it is critical more than ever that future generations are prepared for today’s internationally connected world.
“We love China, love the Chinese language, love Chinese culture, love Chinese food and we all believe that languages, of course including the Chinese language, are the best and strongest bridge of friendship between different cultures,” said Carrasco, who has been studying the Chinese language for years like her husband and two children.
Unlike other U.S. schools, the Chinese language, along with English and Spanish, is mandatory for all students at ILTEXAS, which now has 6,000 students on the waiting list to be enrolled.
According to Carrasco, who has already visited China twice, leadership and culture are incorporated here for all students who are given leadership roles with the concept of others before self, which is now the motto of ILTEXAS.
Each year, students dedicate themselves to community service and study 12 important character traits that foster a good leader by empowering students to overcome challenges and create a more productive society.
Languages like the Chinese language are one of the best tools for countries to further communicate and understand each other, and this will no doubt lead to a good relationship between them, said Anthony Palagonia, principal of ILTEXAS Garland High School with more than 500 students, among which over 50 are from China.
“For relations between countries, they have to grow or they will die, and so do relations between China and the U.S. … This is what we are doing now,” he told Xinhua.
“We have more than 50 students from China, and this is to ensure our students not only learn the language, but also better understand the culture and most importantly build meaningful relationships. With the goal of educating every three American students with one Chinese student, we hope long-term relationships and friendships will form,” he added.
Palagonia’s words were echoed by Wang Xiaoyan, district Chinese program coordinator of ILTEXAS, who told Xinhua that “languages such as the Chinese language are the best platform and bridge that help peoples strengthen their understanding, cooperate well with each other as well as safeguard the world’s people.”
Xiong Chunji, who is from China’s southwestern Guangxi Province and one of the 28 Chinese teachers working at ILTEXAS, said that the students here are eager to learn the Chinese language and Chinese culture.
“Our teaching is highly commended for always trying to make Chinese language learning funny and interesting … It is a great honor for all of us to teach the Chinese language here as we are goodwill ambassadors who are planting the seed of friendship between the two peoples,” she said.
ILTEXAS has developed close relationships with its sister schools in China to facilitate an exchange program of teachers and students.
The cultural immersion program, for instance, provides American students from Texas with a unique opportunity to spend an adventurous month exploring the culture and society of China to broaden their minds.
Students like Nicolas Goldring, J’len Thomas, Ariadna Guevara, Magaly Cital and Jacob Alen, aged 15 to 17, are the clear winners of the Chinese language learning program, which brought them to China last summer for a four-week immersion experience.
“For us, it was the first time to be in China and it was an amazing trip which we will never forget,” they said, adding that “we were deeply impressed by the beautiful landscapes, the delicious food, the colorful culture and the meaningful friendship.”
They agreed that Chinese language learning and the immersion program have broadened their vision and understanding as well as given a whole new meaning to their lives.
When asked about what Chinese songs they can sing, they laughed and spontaneously sang the pop song “Little Apple,” which became popular overnight in China.
They said that the Chinese language is very interesting and helps them look at the world in a different way. They also believed that learning Chinese will help them find good jobs in the future.
For Zhang Yiqun, educational counsellor of China’s Consulate General in Houston, ILTEXAS is unique and has chosen an effective method to educate the American students from kindergarten to high school.
“The Chinese language has become a bridge between different cultures and the bond between mutual relationships,” he said, adding that “it is the opening-up and reform over the past decades that have helped China, its language and culture march towards the world with an active posture.”
Currently, there are more than 300,000 Chinese students studying in the United States and he hopes the American students can follow suit.
ILTEXAS, which is expected to expand its Chinese teaching force in the coming year, will no doubt continue to achieve new milestones. Enditem