Carmel Valley students request Chinese courses at Canyon Crest

A group of Carmel Valley students and parents came to the May 11 San Dieguito Union High School District board meeting to encourage the board to add Chinese language courses at Canyon Crest Academy.

“A different language is a different vision of life,” said Julia Liu, a Carmel Del Mar sixth grader, quoting Federico Fellini. Julia plans to attend CCA in a few years and she said she hopes to have the opportunity to experience a different perspective through taking Chinese.

“At a small age I began to learn and love the language of Chinese. It helped me learn about my heritage and the people that made the world what it is. This gave me a different way of thinking,” Julia said. “The population of Chinese-American students who would like to take this class is at a very high level.”

Parent Ying Yang said nearly 300 students, mostly from CCA, are taking Chinese off campus for world language credit, usually on the weekends. She presented the board with a petition with 1,028 signatures asking the district to consider adding Chinese at CCA.

Conchi Goidillo, a sixth grader at Carmel Del Mar, is one of these students who would like to take Spanish at CCA — she speaks Spanish and English and is learning Chinese.

“To me, speaking Chinese is important because it is the most spoken language in the world,” Conchi said. “It will open doors for international relationships between our two wonderful countries, China and America. As the world is growing and advancing, we need to be prepared for what’s to come.”

Leslie Zhang, a senior at CCA, said many students like herself are very busy playing sports, participating in the arts and taking multiple AP classes. She said it can be very challenging to fit in taking Chinese class at another institution.

“(Having Chinese offered at CCA) would definitely open many doors for students, save time and allow students to prioritize,” said Leslie, who is headed to Cornell in the fall and is slightly worried that she missed out on not being as advanced in Chinese as she could have been. “I’m very sad about not being able to take Chinese at CCA… I want all future and current Ravens to have the opportunity to learn Chinese in school.”

Michael Grove, associate superintendent of educational services, said the district is interested in expanding where it offers Chinese.

The district has a long history of world language that has evolved over the years. The district has offered German, Japanese, ASL (American Sign Language), French and started offering Chinese in 2011. Initially Chinese has been offered at Torrey Pines High, La Costa Canyon, Earl Warren and Carmel Valley Middle School.

“When we add languages we do that strategically because it has an implication for other languages and other electives,” Grove said.

Grove said there are strong arguments for adding Chinese: The native-Chinese language population in the school district has grown significantly over the last seven or eight years so there is increasing interest. Interest has also increased as China has become a more prominent economic global power.

“We’re likely at the point now where we have significant demand at CCA based on the number of students who are taking it outside and transferring it in,” Grove said. “It’s probably time for us to talk about expanding.”

Grove said as they consider adding the language, the district will have to have a discussion about the levels offered — ideally they would like to offer Chinese 1 though AP. Specifically with Chinese, there can be a challenge in finding instructors, he said — California has only had a Chinese teaching credential for the past nine years so there are just not as many people out there credentialed to teach. If SDUHSD offers all levels at all schools, they want to ensure they have enough qualified teachers to meet the demand.

Grove said they would begin to have discussions about expanding Chinese to CCA; if added, the classes wouldn’t begin this fall but likely in fall 2018.

“Chinese has benefited me in many ways,” said David He, a Carmel Valley Middle School student who will be a CCA freshman next year. David said that becoming more proficient in the language has given him cultural understanding and acceptance but he also used his Chinese to give back, teaching underprivileged children in a remote area of China. “Chinese is not a language to be underestimated. It’s important to our society, our nation and ourselves.”