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College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Partnership supports only Chinese program at Mississippi public high school

Oxford High School students in Ping Zhang’s class await their instructor’s arrival. As she enters the room and takes her position in front of the class, the students rise from their seats, bow and respond to her greeting in Mandarin Chinese. For the next 45 minutes, it is the only language spoken in the classroom.

These students have a rare opportunity to learn Chinese while in high school, thanks to the UM’s Chinese Language Flagship Program and the Department of Modern Languages.

With federal funding, the department established and continues to support the Chinese language program at OHS, the only one of its kind at a Mississippi public high school. Since its inception in 2008, the program has expanded cultural awareness and promoted inclusiveness.

“The focus of the course is for students to achieve overall proficiency, so the curriculum is much different from their other classes,” said Zhang, a graduate student in the Teaching English as a Second Language program. “In addition to being able to fluently speak, listen, read and write in Chinese, my students must also know and understand the culture and customs of China.”

“As chair of the Department of Modern Languages, I am exceedingly proud of our working relationship with Oxford High School,” said Donald Dyer, professor and co-director of the Chinese Language Flagship Program. “Our efforts and support have paid enormous dividends. Oxford has one of only three Chinese-language programs in the state of Mississippi and the only program at a public school, a testament to its progressive academic programs and forward-looking administration.”

OHS students with no Chinese background can take a month of intensive Chinese in the summer through UM’s federally funded StarTalk program for high school students and move directly into the second-level course afterwards. Three of Zhang’s students have enrolled in UM Chinese courses while still in high school, and two have become members of UM’s elite Chinese Flagship program.

“I will continue studying Chinese while I pursue a degree in journalism,” said Alli Bridgers, a recent OHS graduate. The incoming freshman already has been accepted into the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and has applied to the Croft Institute for International Studies. “I want to stand out in the job market should I get the opportunity to live and work in China one day. I also like Chinese food and enjoy being able to order dishes using the native language.”

Recent OHS graduate Tory Dixon is the only student in the Chinese language program who had visited China.

“After I took Chinese, I went on a mission trip to work in an orphanage in China,” Dixon said. “I discovered the Chinese people are very peaceful and likeable. Once I earn my degree, I’d like to return to work as a surgeon.”

The UM Chinese Language Flagship Program is, together with Brigham Young University, one of two federally funded Chinese Flagship centers in the United States.

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