Kobe Bryant helps kids learn Chinese

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American born Kobe Bryant grew up in Italy while his dad was playing for an Italian basketball team. Now this polyglot basketball star is funding Chinese classes for children in Los Angeles through his Kobe Bryant Family Foundation. This is the first time I can think of when a prominent sports figure is supporting foreign language education. Grazie! Sie-sie! (“Thank you” in Italian and Chinese.) The Confucius Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles and Kobe Bryant are helping children learn Mandarin Chinese and Wushu, a martial arts discipline. Mixing foreign language learning with a physical activity that will both keep the kids awake and get them interested in Chinese culture is a great idea. Learning a foreign language is about much more than memorizing Chinese characters and trying to learn the four tones of the language, it’s about engaging the mind, body and spirit in the activity. Learn more in this article by the Xinhua News Service: Confucius Institutes open new doors for youngsters

Why culture and language matter

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My friend Eric Blaisdell painted these drawings when he was teaching English in Japan to show important it is to learn cultural norms when in a foreign country. In the case of the clueless Australian visitor to a Japanese home, the Japanese hosts are shocked that the Westerner did not take off his shoes when entering. It’s not just language that matters, cultural cues are paramount. http://www.ericblaisdell.com/portfolio.html

SF Schools teaching heritage speakers

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Heritage language speakers are those who speak a foreign language at home. I am a Russian heritage speaker and I know that many of us heritage speakers often have trouble correctly speaking our mother tongues because we don’t learn grammar at home. It’s wonderful that the San Francisco school district just got a grant to improve the heritage language programs for Russian and Japanese speakers. Here’s the article about San Francisco’s new grant: SF Schools Get $1.5M Language Grant