School reinforces Chinese culture
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 3, 2004
by Peter Ortiz
Chinese Linguistic School of Phoenix
WHAT: The Chinese Linguistic School of Phoenix's 2004 Arizona Chinese
Culture Summer Camp.
WHEN: July 5-9.
WHERE: Arizona State University.
COST: $190 per student and $160 for students not staying overnight.
INFORMATION: For information on the school at MCC or the camp at ASU contact
Ten Chang at (480) 753-5729 or visit www.hunchnet.com/Chinesesummercamp.
Stephanie Light spends her Sundays in Mesa learning a language with thousands
The 11-year-old from Scottsdale is among nearly 200 who attend the
Chinese Linguistic School of Phoenix at Mesa Community College, where Mandarin
is taught. For many parents and students, the school is a way to
form friendships and one of the best ways to preserve Chinese culture.
"I really like to go to Taiwan and visit with relatives," said Light, who grew
up listening to her mother speak Mandarin. "If I did not know how to communicate
it would be hard, because I would not be able to share secrets with my cousins."
The school is more than 20 years old and is one of the oldest of the
Chinese schools in Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler and Mesa. Parents and teachers run
the all-volunteer program, which operates out of 19 classrooms and
provides language classes for preschoolers to 11th-graders.
With no paid staff, the school can charge little for families, who travel from
all over the Valley and, in the case of one family, from Sedona. Yearly tuition
is about $200, with extracurricular activities such as calligraphy, drawing,
kung fu, guitar, yoga, basketball, math and SAT review costing $20 to $30.
Dr. Kelly Hsu of Ahwatukee Foothills, who brings her children, said the goal is
to attract as many families as possible. The school also will host an Arizona
Chinese Culture Summer Camp from July 5 to 9.
"We want to be able to provide this education for everybody," Hsu said.
Ten Chang, a board member, said the school has allowed his 8-year-old
son, Joey, to communicate with his grandparents when they visit from
Taiwan. Chang started as a volunteer at the school six years ago.
"They feel really good when they realize he can speak Chinese with them," Chang
Although appreciating the cultural benefits, some parents also see
the positives in learning a language from a country on the verge of becoming
an economic powerhouse.
Li-ling Espey's 6-year-old daughter, Hannah, has attended for three years. Espey,
who is Chinese, said her White father-in-law encourages her to leave Hannah in
school so she can master the language.
Espey, of Phoenix, said sometimes she worries about overburdening her daughter
with so much at a young age but takes comfort in the teachers, who nurture their
students. Students also find a supportive network of friends as they progress
year after year.
"I think she is fine because her teacher is really loving," Espey said.
Most parents are Chinese, but there are mixed couples and some
all-White families with children adopted from China. Robert Hart, 39, and his
wife, Jill Thomas, 38, of Phoenix, learned Mandarin in China, where they lived
as exchange students. Their sons, Max, 4, and Zachary, 7, grew up with a Chinese
"My kids' first words were in Chinese," Hart said. "When our nanny left, they
both stopped speaking Chinese."
A year after their nanny left, Hart enrolled Zachary, then 3, in the school. He
enrolled Max this year and sits in with him. In December, Hart and his wife also
adopted May, a 2-year-old girl who had been abandoned in China, giving them
another reason for their children to study Mandarin. Thomas also takes a
conversation class for adults, one of several programs, including basketball and
tai chi that, are offered for parents.
"They always look forward to coming to Chinese school," Hart said. "It is such
a positive environment; even as foreigners we are not looked down upon."
Judy and Gordon Ma have their two children, Sean, 14, and Grace, 11, enrolled
in the school. Judy Ma, who also serves as vice principal at the school, said
her children enjoy the friends they have made and the school's fun approach to
"I hope they would identify themselves as multicultural and I would like
for them to know where their parents came from," Judy Ma said.
Reach the reporter at
or (602) 444-7726.