NDA to Add Mandarin Classes in Fall

Diego Mendoza, Staff Writer

Notre Dame Academy recently announced it will be offering Chinese instruction for its 2014-2015 school year. It is to be the first private high school in Green Bay to be offering such courses.

Students signing up for next year’s classes were asked to consider taking Chinese for an alternative elective credit. School counselors also advertised the program for incoming freshmen and parents who were curious in what NDA is offering.

“The main goal here at NDA is to create a diverse, robust world languages program,” said NDA Principal Dr. John Ravizza. “We are very unique to schools even much larger than us. Besides Spanish, Russian, German and French, the new Chinese program is going to add great variety to the department offering students more options than any other school in the area.”

Chinese, which is most commonly referred to as Mandarin, is nothing new in the United States. According to the Modern Language Association, Mandarin is the 7th most popular language for U.S high school students. In 2009, there were about 61 thousand American teenagers who were enrolled in a high school Mandarin program.

The association also predicts the language is to become more popular within the next ten years. With China’s economy becoming one of the largest in the world, Mandarin is considered essential for any student interested in international business and diplomacy.

“The idea of the program really was brought up about three years ago by parents who were in businesses that often work with other companies in China,” Ravizza said. “These parents knew that there was a gap in their companies through language barriers. We value giving students an education that they’ll need once they leave NDA, and Mandarin seemed as though it could help students who could end up working for companies similar to those.”

Ravizza is also keen on introducing the new culture to the NDA community. He said that with China having the largest population in the world, it is very important for students to understand a culture that is very prominent, and added that it will help students with their Catholic faith by allowing students to connect with their Chinese brothers and sister. He hopes Mandarin will further enhance NDA’s mission of developing universal citizens.

The new program at NDA has received unique and different opinions from the student body.

For freshman Nicholas Messerschmidt, it will be his first language class taken at NDA. His friends encouraged him to sign up for Mandarin for his sophomore year.

“I really love Asian culture, traditions, history, and food,” Messerschmidt said. “It’s definitely not like any language I’ve studied before, and I’m a little bit nervous of learning all the characters, but the language is just really making me more and more interested in learning it!”

Likewise, freshman Claire Sternkopf signed up for Mandarin for her sophomore year. However, Sternkopf has already had Mandarin instruction in the past, and will be joining a few other students in the advanced classes NDA is offering.

“I was adopted from China, so I started Chinese six years ago because it really attracted me,” said Sternkopf. “I believe it’s going to be a classic experience for any student. Chinese classes will give more ideas for students to bounce off of; it’ll make NDA a lot of fun!”

However some students were not as keen on the idea of taking Mandarin classes, such as freshman Michael DeLeers, who said he was mostly frightened on learning the language.

“I think that Mandarin is a useful language, but it’s not for me,” said DeLeers. “If I took it, I’d have too much trouble memorizing all the characters, and I feel I could focus my time on learning other material to excel in other classes.”

The new class has also sparked interest within the Green Bay foreign language teachers. Many, like Wisconsin International School Mandarin teacher Qiuhong Zhang, are relieved that NDA is finally offering the language.

“NDA is a great school, and many of my own students have graduated from WIS to attend NDA,” said Zhang. “Because Chinese culture and language can be so distinct from Western society, I am most excited to see so many students be exposed to unique but beautiful culture. I believe that NDA is making a great choice in offering the class, and it will add to its already rigorous curriculum and mission of creating open-minded students.”

WIS, located near the St. Norbert College Campus, is currently the only grade school in the area offering total immersion daily Mandarin classes. Some public high schools that currently offer Chinese, but at a non-advanced level, include West High School, Preble High School, and East High School. Notre Dame Middle School of De Pere, and the Green Bay Gifted and Talented School are also currently looking into beginning a Mandarin program.

Although there is still not a teacher hired for the NDA position, teachers like Zhang are confident the program will live to its expectations.

“A language is like a tool: you don’t need one to survive, but it’ll surely help to make life easier,” Zhang said. “I’ve been working closely with NDA the last couple of months, and am excited to be coming closer and closer to next semester. The new program at NDA has really worked to open students to the world, and open them to the future.”