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More Students Learning Chinese Language

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WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — China's population is four times the United States, and its economic output is expected to triple in the next 15 years.

That's why the U.S. Department of State calls the Chinese language, which is spoken by 1.3 billion people, a "critical language."

And that's why more and more students in the Triangle area are signing up to learn Standard Mandarin, the official language of the People's Republic of China and one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

"Their economy is going through a big economic boom right now," said Shavia Westmoreland, a student at Enloe High School who is taking a Chinese language course. "It would be wise for me to take it now. That way, when it's time for me to go to college, I can study and go over there to work."

School officials at Enloe High School, in Wake County, said 10 additional students signed up this year to take Chinese, which allowed the school to add another class. The school is also offering an Advanced Placement course in Chinese. When the College Board debuts the AP Chinese test in 2007, Enloe will be among the 2,400 schools in the nation offering an AP course.

In all, four schools within the Wake County Public School System, including Wiley Elementary, offer courses in the Chinese language.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools also offers Chinese courses from the elementary to high school level. School officials there said they have seen a steady increase in interested students over the past few years.

Durham Public Schools does not offer Chinese language courses, but a bill introduced in Congress earlier this year calls for the expansion of the number of Chinese language classes offered in public schools.


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