When we last left LaSalle Language Academy’s Cultural Exchange Program, students were just returning from their fantastic voyage to France and Germany.
As part of the international program, 40-50 8th grade students travel each year in the fall or spring overseas to learn more about the cities and countries they study first-hand.
Participants travel to the target country and get real life experience using the skills they have been accumulating since kindergarten. All students learn French, German, Italian, Mandarin or Spanish for 180 minutes per week, from kindergarten through 8th grade.
Students travel to France and Spain annually, and Germany and Italy on alternate years. And now thanks to the school’s principal, Elizabeth Heurtefeu, students will soon be able to get their passports stamped from China.
Jialing Chen, the Chinese-language teacher at LaSalle, and Heurtefeu went to Shenyang, China, for a week in November of 2009 to visit the Shenyang Experimental School with the hopes of finding their next foreign exchange program partner in China.
During the trip, Heurtefeu and Chen met with teachers, staff, and students at the elementary school. Both were impressed with what they saw. Students as young as pre-kindergarten were already becoming fluent in two languages: their native language and English. It’s a curriculum Heurtefeu said every student should get to experience.
For more than 20 years, LaSalle Language Academy has been a pioneer in building cultural exchange programs. The school has hosted approximately 1,000 students here in Chicago, and sent the same number of students abroad. Heurtefeu said having this program at the elementary level gives students a unique experience of language immersion and appreciation for different cultures.
LaSalle Language Academy is now reaching out to build relationships with schools in China.
“The world in which our students will compete in has become more global,” Heurtefeu said. “If all goes well, LaSalle students will be traveling to China in 2011.”
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Article written by C. Payton