Summer program gives students a good talking to

A group of students spending part of their summer at Swansfield Elementary have taken a giant step toward becoming citizens of the world, but they will also reap more tangible benefits from a federal grant that is immersing them in Chinese.

Numerous researchers have linked studies of foreign languages with higher test scores, including on the SAT. The growing globalization of commerce makes the ability to communicate effectively with people in other parts of the world more marketable than ever, particularly when you're speaking a principal language of the world's most populous nation.

So 78 students in third through eighth grades from Howard and neighboring counties who just finished a month of classes at Swansfield funded through a federal grant are bound to have a leg up.

The StarTalk program at Swansfield taught elementary and middle school students Chinese through instruction on marine wildlife, and included a visit to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. From the beginning, nearly all the instruction was in Chinese.

As any language scholar will tell you, conversing in a foreign tongue for prolonged periods is the most effective way of learning it. Using the familiar and fascinating reference points of sea life, the StarTalk program can give students a solid foundation quickly.

The program shows great promise, and could provide a model for instruction on a more global basis.

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