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Aiken County students accelerate with new foreign language program

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 8:14 AM EDT
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AIKEN CO., S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Aiken County School District is trying out a new program to immerse students in new languages. Even though the pandemic has changed the way our children learn already, the results of this new program speak for themselves.

For 7-year-old Drake Mueller, going to class to learn Chinese is a blast.

“It’s my first language I’m learning the most about,” he said. “My favorite is when we did this number thing... Where like we count one person. We would start from number one and go to a certain number, it’s usually 100 which is 一百 in Chinese.”

Mueller is a first-grader at Belvedere Elementary. His dad says he can recognize Chinese letters and writing, and almost two years into the program, he’s seen tremendous growth.

“This is his second year, and I can tell from the acceleration we saw from his first go-around - it’s an even faster acceleration in terms of his reading comprehension, his math skills. He’s going to be our translator when we go visit china one day,” Kurt Mueller said.

Teachers say the younger the kids are, the easier it is for them to pick up and learn any language. And so far they’ve seen massive engagement and participation.

“First and second-graders have energy enough so as a teacher you have to kind of match that energy and she definitely matches that energy,” one Belvedere teacher said.

“This year’s group has just been very successful with the things that they’re learning. It’s not only in math and science, but even conversational has been amazing to watch,” another teacher said.

They say there were concerns with students balancing learning mandarin as well as grade-level standards, but numbers show they’re still seeing accelerated growth.

“Across the board, 30 percent of them fell under that aggressive growth element in our mandarin class. And over 40 percent had aggressive academic growth in math,” Belvedere Principal Allyson Long explained.

They say they’re very impressed with the aggressive growth and they’re eager to see how students like drake flourish over the next few years.

I’m starting to like learning Chinese,” Drake said. “It’s a really cool language.”

Belvedere Elementary says they’re hoping to continue this immersion program up to fifth grade and possibly extend it even further to middle and high school students in Aiken County.

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