DeKALB – On a scale from one to 10, Charlotte Sharp rated the fun she had learning Chinese at "2 million."
"The thing I liked the most was having fun with friends and making new ones," Sharp said. "And getting to dance. That was fun too."
Sharp was one of 30 students, ages 8 to 11, who finished the two-week Chinese Summer Immersion Program, hosted by Startalk, the Consortium of Illinois Language Schools, and DeKalb School District 428. The students were recognized for completing the course and gave performances in the DeKalb High School auditorium on Tuesday.
Startalk and the Consortium of Illinois Language Schools are extensions of the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland. The federally funded programs seek to teach children languages that are not widely taught in the United States.
Students such as Sharp showed off their new language skills, speaking entirely in Chinese during their program's closing ceremony. As their parents looked on, the students recited different Chinese poems and performed different dances in the high school auditorium.
Daisy Chang, director of the teacher program at Startalk, said the students underwent 60 hours of language camp during those two weeks.
"If we offer a very low-cost program like this, and plant the seed for the student to know the cultural aspect and some part of the language aspect," Chang said, "hopefully in the future, the school district will open up the program or the students start to get into and start to learn more."
Jennie Hueber, the assistant principal of DeKalb High School, said this is the first time the DeKalb school district has participated in such a program.
"The practices are used in teaching the children – teaching the Chinese language they learned this summer – are the very best research-based practices that can be used with children in teaching them a foreign language," Hueber said.
Peni Hanggarini, a Northern Illinois University student studying political science, said she was impressed by the progress her daughter, Nayla, made after two weeks. Hanggarini said she first learned about the program through the school district.
"I was amazed with the show," Hanggarini said. "I didn't expect it. ... They only practiced for two weeks, and they can say something in Chinese and perform the culture."