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Chinese school classes teach language, culture
Arizona Daily Star
July 22, 2003

The Tucson Chinese Association conducts classes on language and culture every Sunday at Tucson Unified School District's Catalina High Magnet School.

Some 160 students converge on the campus at 3645 E. Pima St., said Principal Christina Leung.

Most of the students are between the ages of 4 and 15. About 30 adults - some in their 70s - are also hitting the books.

Classes include the languages of Mandarin or Cantonese, which is a dialect of Mandarin. The language classes last two hours, then students have an hour of cultural classes, including Chinese line dancing, painting, watercolor, pencil drawing and calligraphy. Offerings also include music classes, badminton, table tennis and basketball. Students have formed a "Mandarin Speaking Corner" to practice conversing in an informal setting.

"The classes are open to anyone who wants to learn the language or culture," said Leung. "We have a lot of students of mixed race, and some Anglos."

Student Kevin Tong, who has attended the school for five years, is studying Cantonese.

"I can speak it, but I'm not that great in reading and writing yet," said Tong, 14, who attends Catalina Foothills High School.

Tong said many of his friends attend Chinese school, and he is proud that he can speak Cantonese with his parents, and with grandparents who live in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"I want to make sure he learns the Chinese culture, and having a second language is the best," said Kevin's father, James Tong, 49, a Raytheon Missile Systems engineer. Tong was born in Los Angeles; his father eventually wants to take him to visit relatives in Hong Kong.

- Carmen Duarte