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Nose Under the Community Tent

By Paul Losch

About this blog: I was a "corporate brat" growing up and lived in different parts of the country, ending in Houston, Texas for high school. After attending college at UC Davis, and getting an MBA at Harvard, I embarked on a marketing career, mai...  (More)

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Chinese Immersion

Uploaded: Apr 12, 2014
My blue eyed, blond haired, fair skinned daughter speaks fluent Mandarin.

She was not part of the Mandarin Immersion project in PAUSD, which was put in place after her time.

My daughter chose, at no urging but plenty of encouragement, from her parents, to take lessons in Mandarin, spent two summers in China when she was a student at Paly, and attended a very fine college that had several programs in China for its students.

She is fluent in Mandarin, is teaching English in China right now, has a job offer to stay there and be a counselor to Chinese high school students who want to attend college in the States. She also has been accepted to a program in China that is run by Johns Hopkins, which is one of the best internationally oriented universities in the world.

I am not boasting about my daughter—waste of time. Rather, I am suggesting that the Spanish and Mandarin immersion programs we have here in Palo Alto schools are a dividend to the children, their families, and the community.

The kids in Spanish and Mandarin immersion education in the Palo Alto Schools are very fortunate, and will contribute more to the world because of their experience.
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Wondering, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 13, 2014 at 9:40 am

Wow! Yesterday PL started a thread about the PAUSD that sort of made sense, but given that everyone in town probably is probably thinking along the same lines?his post didn?t exactly bring much clarity to the situation ?

And then, almost immediately, he opened another thread about language immersion at the PAUSD. What gives? Any continuity between these two threads, or just PL hopping about on his own cloud?

What?s really amazing about Palo Alto is that we are sitting in the middle of some of the greatest technological innovation that has ever occurred, and we have people who claim to have lived here for decades?still unaware of what is happening in/about the Valley.

Take language translators, for instance, since PL did:

Handheld Chinese/English Translarors:
Web Link

Add Language To Your Web-site:
Web Link

Google Translate:
Web Link

Language translation is always going to be less than perfect, even when humans are doing the work. But the idea that we need to see languages as skills that can only be tackled, or mastered, with immersion, is going to be a thing of the past one of these days.

Wonder what it?s going to take to get Palo Altans, like PL, to wake up and smell the technology?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Apr 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm


Somewhere along the way you have missed out on what happens with immersion programs in our district.

To get into an immersion program, you have to enter a lottery and if you are lucky, you will get picked. There are more applicants than places. After 1st grade, if one of the students drops out for any reason, they are only replaced with someone who already can master both languages - English and the target language - if there is someone like that will to enter at whatever grade level the space has been made.

For those who do not get into an immersion program, there is no foreign language choices in Palo Alto until 7th grade. Even at 7th grade it is an elective and if it so happened that too many students applied for a class there would not be enough space in the classes.

For many if not most PAUSD students, they do not start foreign language until high school. By that stage, the likelihood of picking up a good accent is unlikely plus the benefits of learning foreign grammar to help English grammar is also unlikely.

If you want to praise PAUSD for their immersion programs then remember that it is only the very lucky who get to partake. The rest of our elementary students get nothing. Is that really their "bad luck" and should we consider them "unlucky"?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Barron Park,
on Apr 13, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Foreign language instruction should begin in kindergarten across the district... Our brains are made to learn language early in life. Waiting until high school is a shame.

Interesting study on the MI program here:

Web Link

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 14, 2014 at 8:09 am


I agree with you. That is how it is in many other countries.

Some years ago, I was on Site Council at Walter Hays, and advocated for such an approach. Nobody pushed back on the idea, but many were scratching their heads trying to figure out if language instruction were introduced, what would be given up? Never did crack the code on that question.

My personal experience and that of my daughter suggest to me that if a middle school student gets effective instruction, it is still possible to achieve mastery of another language. Still, the earlier the better.

Posted by Parent of 3, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 14, 2014 at 10:31 am

To Wondering: Learning a foreign language is a brain-expanding exercise that is totally lost when we rely on technology to handle translation activities. I agree with those who think all foreign language learning should begin as early as possible. The "...greatest technological innovations that have every occured" right here in the Valley aren\'t necessarily the best method for teaching anything just because they exist. Many of those "innovations" are designed to make some people a lot of money, regardless of the benefit they bring to humans and mankind.

Posted by David, a resident of Esther Clark Park,
on Apr 14, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Our boy watches Chinese dubbed movies after class, and it pays off nicely. He started with "Toy Story", and now he is watching "Home Alone", and "National Treasure", which comes with more practical daily use vocabulary in Mandarin Chinese. The movies have English / Mandarin Chinese conversation, and Chinese / English subtitles. Quite useful for all situations.

Posted by Paul Losch, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 17, 2014 at 10:43 am

Paul Losch is a registered user.

OK, I will boast on my daughter, after getting an e-mail from her this morning.

She will be college counseling Chinese high school students in the coming education year, and then will enroll at Johns Hopkins, in its China focused program.

Every young adult follows a different path, lots of frustrated 20-somethings not sure yet what the path is for them.

We are a smart enough town and school district that we can shine lights on how to pursue opportunities and interests beyond standard SV gigs. I am proud of my daughter that she has chosen such a path.

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