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Mandarin Chinese Language Program Prepares Central Oregon Students for Business

The Sisters School District offers an extensive Mandarin Chinese language program that helps students prepare for jobs in the global economy. Beginning with elementary school and continuing through middle and high school, students are exposed to the Chinese language and culture. It is the only program of it’s kind in Central Oregon and one of 25 across the state.

“China is a huge market that is beginning to play a major role in world affairs,” said Sisters High School instructor David Perkins who founded the program. “Business leaders are looking for people who speak Chinese and understand how to operate in a Chinese cultural context. Learning the language can give students an advantage in the job market.”

Through a partnership with Portland State University’s Confucius Institute, the Sisters School District currently has five other Chinese language teachers in addition to Perkins. Vivian Zhang and Yvonne Tieh help Perkins with the high school and middle school students and have recently been joined by new teacher Melissa Koschnitzke. Linda Yang teaches four classes at the middle school.  Eva Xu and Tina Cao teach twice a week at the elementary school, using song and movement to teach students Chinese words.

The high school and middle school program teaches students a working knowledge of the Mandarin sound system, basic sentence structure and fundamental grammatical concepts with related terminology. Reading, listening, speaking and writing are taught throughout the courses. Students are also introduced to China’s cultural and geographic environment.

In addition to learning the language, the middle and high school students are exposed to Chinese culture through activities like brush calligraphy and Chinese dumplings. They also occasionally visit the Confucius Institute for various cultural events. Last year, third year student Alana Lukens placed first in a talent competition at the Institute, singing a popular Chinese love song.

At the high school, advanced placement Chinese courses are also available allowing students to receive college credit. These advanced courses help students further develop interpersonal and interpretive skills as well as work through the five goal areas outlined in the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century.

According to Perkins many students have gone on to study Chinese in college.

“Speaking Chinese can give our students an edge when competing for an important position,” said Perkins. “China has opened up to the West and there are opportunities for employment in all areas.”

For more information, contact David Perkins at 541.549.4045 or