Black Kindergartners Learn Mandarin

The San Francisco Chronicle printed a feature on Black youths in San Francisco learning Mandarin Chinese in their kindergartner class.  It brightened my day to read the article and view the on-line video.  Check it out:


Kindergarten students learning Mandarin fast in immersion class. Speechless as school began, they’re now amazingly proficient.

Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, April 1, 2007

Durrell Laury, a kindergartner at Starr King Elementary s… Durrell Laury (right) reads with Lia Pickholtz. They’re i… Teacher Angelica Chang helps Durrell Laury with writing M… Teacher Angelica Chang motions to her Mandarin immersion …

Durrell Laury was in line at Nordstrom with his mom when he heard a group of women behind him speaking Mandarin.

The 5-year-old turned and said, “Ni hao (hello),” watching for their reaction.

The women looked at him, and then to his mother, with expressions of suspicion and surprise.

Then he asked them how they were, again in Chinese.

The women stared at the small boy with his cornrows and dark skin, his little face waiting for a reply.

“Is he black?” one of the women asked Durrell’s mom, Ijnanya Foster.

Foster smiled.

“Yes,” she said. “He is.”

The women said that even their own grandchildren can’t speak Mandarin and that Durrell should be the ambassador to China. Durrell replied that he’d rather stay here and go to school.

Foster recounted the incident several days later with equal measures of pride and amusement.

“I was dumbfounded,” Foster said laughing.

Seven months ago, Durrell — an African American child living in public housing in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood — didn’t know a word of Chinese.

Since then, he has spent every day of kindergarten at Starr King Elementary immersed in Mandarin. His teacher, Angelica Chang, has never spoken a word of English to her students.

Read the Article |View Video


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