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Mandarin Program Finds Niche at Mamaroneck High

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Emma Goldstein chose to study Chinese over the more traditional foreign languages at Mamaroneck High School, which has grown from 30 to 300 students since its inception 23 years ago, said Rong Rong Le, one of the school's Chinese language teachers.

Like most of her classmates, Goldstein, 17, made that decision in sixth grade, when students take eight weeks of each language offered at Hommocks Middle School and MHS.

"It's now just one of the foreign languages," said Le, who began teaching Chinese at MHS in 1990. "Apart from the seventh through 12th grade classes, we also have a sixth grade program, which is more like a cultural language program. They take eight weeks of French, Spanish and Chinese, then select a language."

Gloria Chuang started the sixth grade program around seven years ago, Le said. "Since then, our program has grown so fast."

Goldstein's favorite part about the Chinese program is learning the character. "It's interesting to learn a language that is so radically different than English," she said.

This past spring, the Larchmont resident went on the trip to China with her class, which, she said was an eye-opening experience. "When I went to China and tried to communicate, it was so difficult," she said. "I can speak to them but I couldn't understand them."

In 1994, 15 students joined Lee on the program's first trip to China, which they do every two to three years for two weeks in April. The biggest group, she said, was 55 students. Past groups have visited five cities on their trips, including Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Shanghai and Suzhou.

"Every time they come back from China, they are so motivated," Le said.

Anima Banks, 17, went with her class last year to China Town in New York City, where they bargained in Chinese for goods. While Banks, a Mamaroneck resident, talked down the price for a pair of earrings, her teacher got the best deal by bargaining down a scarf from $20 to $5. "We just had a unit on bargaining in class, so when we were in China Town, we bargained," she said.

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