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Resource Corner


Spotlight on Chinese

CAL activites and resources related to Chinese

CAL is collaborating with the National K-12 Foreign Language Resource Center at Iowa State University to improve and expand the teaching of Chinese in Grades K-5 by establishing an articulated, long-sequence language instruction model and conducting research on its implementation. The project is developing a Chinese K-5 language framework and a proficiency-focused, standards-based curriculum and materials. It is also training teachers in classroom techniques that reflect best practices, including classroom-based assessment techniques and the use of the Early Language Learning Oral Proficiency Assessment (ELLOPA) and the Student Oral Proficiency Assessment (SOPA). The project collaborates with three schools implementing K-5 Chinese programs and conducts longitudinal research to examine (a) students’ progress in Chinese language proficiency; (b) attitudes of students, administrators, teachers, parents, and the community toward the Chinese language and culture; and (c) progress in English language arts and mathematics (as measured by standardized assessments) of students studying Chinese compared to the progress of control groups of students not studying Chinese.

CAL's Foreign Language Education Division recently conducted an evaluation of an independent Chinese partial immersion school. A team of educators visited the school on multiple occasions to conduct a comprehensive, collaborative review of the program that included observations of English and Mandarin classrooms; review of English and Mandarin curricula; interviews with staff, parents, and students; and questionnaire protocols completed by staff, students, and parents.

K–12 Chinese Language Immersion Programs in the United States
CAL's Directory of Foreign Language Immersion Programs in U.S. Schools contains searchable information about language immersion programs, including Chinese programs, around the country. Please visit the directory to search our records or to add your program to the database.

CAL's Directory of Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Programs in the U.S. contains searchable information about two-way immersion (TWI) programs, including Cantonese and Mandarin programs, around the country. Please visit the directory to search our records or to add your Chinese TWI program.

The Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages is collecting profiles of heritage language programs in the United States. This online collection of profiles allows heritage language programs in community-based, K–12, and higher education settings to form a network to exchange ideas and resources. You can now view the online collection of profiles, which includes Cantonese, Mandarin, and Taiwanese programs, among others. If your program is not listed, please complete a heritage language program profile.

CAL Digests about Chinese

The CAL Digest series includes several papers related to Chinese language learning, such as those listed below. The complete collection of CAL Digests is accessible online.

Chinese Heritage Community Language Schools in the United States , by Theresa Hsu Chao, Founder, National Council of Associations of Chinese Language Schools.
Download PDF
| Read online

Involuntary Language Loss Among Immigrants: Asian-American Linguistic Autobiographies , by Leanne Hinton, University of California, Berkeley.
Read this digest online.

Tapping a National Resource: Heritage Languages in the United States , by Richard D. Brecht and Catherine W. Ingold, National Foreign Language Center, Washington, DC.
Download PDF | Read online.

Attaining High Levels of Proficiency: Challenges for Foreign Language Education in the United States, by Margaret E. Malone, Center for Applied Linguistics; Benjamin Rifkin, Temple University; and Donna Christian and Dora E. Johnson, Center for Applied Linguistics.
Download PDF |
Read online.

Chinese Language Assessment
CAL's Foreign Language Assessment Directory (FLAD) is a resource for locating appropriate assessment instruments. Search by language to find all Chinese language tests in the database.

The Chinese COPE (CAL Oral Proficiency Exam) is an assessment for students in Grades 5-8 that uses oral interview and role-play techniques with two students at a time to measure students’ ability to understand, speak, and be understood by others in Chinese. The test measures academic and social language. The rater evaluates each student's proficiency in terms of comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, and grammar using a simplified holistic scale based on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines.

The SOPA (for Grades 2–8) and ELLOPA (for Grades preK–2) interviews are language proficiency assessment instruments designed to allow young students to demonstrate their highest level of performance in oral fluency, grammar, vocabulary, and listening comprehension. These interactive listening and speaking assessments are designed for children who are learning a foreign language in a school setting and can be used to assess Chinese proficiency. Learn more.

CAL offers training in the effective use of SOPA, ELLOPA, and COPE. Training typically consists of a 2-day workshop that familiarizes participants with the assessment and allows them to practice interviewing and rating students. For more information on SOPA, ELLOPA, or COPE training workshops, contact Lynn Thompson.

The Chinese Proficiency Test (CPT) is designed to measure the listening and reading proficiency of English-speaking learners of Mandarin. Responses to the 150 multiple-choice questions are machine-scoreable. The listening comprehension section consists of questions based on dialogues between two speakers, and on single-speaker passages from authentic materials such as news broadcasts and public announcements. Response options are in English. The reading comprehension section has two parts, structure and reading. Texts range from a few characters (such as street signs or newspaper headlines) to passages of paragraph length (such as excerpts from newspaper articles, correspondence, or short stories). All questions are in English. Reading questions relate to either the factual content of the passage or to inferences based on the passage. Structure questions assess students' ability to recognize correct syntactic patterns in written Mandarin. There is a Cantonese version of the CPT available as well.

The Preliminary Chinese Proficiency Test (Pre-CPT) is a similarly structured assessment designed to measure the listening and reading proficiency of English-speaking learners of Mandarin early in their study of the language. The CPT and Pre-CPT are scored using a common scale. Scores on this scale can be compared, enabling users to observe their growth in proficiency from high school and introductory college programs (where the Pre-CPT would normally be administered) through advanced undergraduate and graduate level courses in Chinese (where the CPT would be administered). For more information about these assessments, contact Laurel Winston.

The Chinese Speaking Test (CST) is a Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview (SOPI) that measures an examinee's speaking ability in Chinese. This valid, standardized test allows for oral proficiency testing in situations where an oral interview with a trained tester is not feasible. This tape-mediated, proficiency-based performance assessment requires students to listen to directions for speaking tasks from a master tape while following along in a test booklet. Student responses to each task are recorded on a separate response tape that is later evaluated by a trained rater, who scores the performance according to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The test includes picture-, topic-, and situation-based tasks. It is available in three parallel forms. With funding from the U.S. Department of Education, the CST was developed by professional test developers at CAL working with leaders in the field of Chinese language education. It is designed to elicit a representative performance sample of the examinee's speech in a short period of time. The CST is intended for English-speaking students of Chinese at proficiency levels from Intermediate-Low to Superior. It may be administered in a language laboratory setting or individually. A Self-Instructional Rater Training Kit is available through the CAL Store. For more information, contact Laurel Winston.

Professional English for Chinese Speakers
Many sectors of the U.S. government have expressed an urgent need for individuals with high levels of proficiency in both English and any of several critical languages. In response, CAL’s English for Heritage Language Speakers (EHLS) project aims to help heritage speakers of critical languages, including Mandarin and Cantonese, develop their English proficiency to high levels, with a particular focus on language skills specific to the federal workplace. CAL assists in the recruitment of heritage language speakers to participate in the program, helps to develop the curriculum for specially designed intensive English programs at two universities, monitors the progress of the students, and evaluates the success of the programs and participants. In 2006, two Cantonese speakers and ten Mandarin speakers participated in the program. The 2007 cohorts include seven Mandarin speakers at Georgetown University and eight Mandarin speakers at the University of Washington. The 2007 participants also include speakers of Cantonese, Taiwanese, and Guilinese (another variety of Chinese). This project is funded by the National Security Education Program. Visit the EHLS Web site or contact Deborah Kennedy for more information about the program.

Additional Sources of Information
The Asia Society has many offerings of interest to those involved in Chinese language learning and education, including a site dedicated to Chinese in schools. Browse their site for useful resources, such as Creating a Chinese Language Program in Your School: An Introductory Guide.

Links to a wide variety of online Chinese language learning resources can be found at

New book for 2008: Chinese as a Heritage Language: Fostering Rooted World Citizens, edited by two leading scholars in the field, examines the dynamics of learning Chinese as a heritage language. The authors draw upon developmental psychology, functional linguistics, linguistic and cultural anthropology, second language acquisition, and bilingualism. Learn more at the University of Hawaii Press Web site.

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