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 
 Stephanie Light spends her Sundays in Mesa learning a language with thousands of characters.
 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 said.
 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 nanny.
 "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 teaching.
 "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. 

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