Hundreds of language programs at public schools have become victims of shrinking budgets. Not Chinese. We visit Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in Brooklyn, NY, where 400 students are learning the language.
Many of the students at the school are immigrants, but only a handful are ethnic Chinese. This is one of the many counterintuitive aspects to this story. Another is that 90% of students come from poor families — poor enough to qualify for subsidized lunches. So, forget any preconceived notions about only white and Chinese-heritage students learning Chinese: Chinese-learning appears to be going viral. But will it last? There’s a nice debate on that question here. The Asia Society is trying to make the current interest in Chinese more than just a passing fad. Together with a partner in China, it has begun handing out grants to American public schools, including Medgar Evers. As well beefing up the curricula, the idea is to get the American schools networked with each other, and with schools in China.
Then, there’s our nod to Valentine’s Day. Don’t be fooled: the language of love is not universal, not unless you keep you mouth shut. The moment you open it, you get into trouble, especially if your lover speaks a different tongue. American writer Jen Percy knows this. She’s been dating a German-speaking Bosnian for three years.Percy endlessly misunderstands the amorous words of her lover and writes amusingly and touchingly about it. I did two takes on my conversation with Percy: one, a straight one-on-one interview; the other a full production number with foreign love songs that I hope is not too much of a This American Life copycat.
Finally we bodice-rip our way out of the recession with romance novels that are more popular than ever. We hear from writer Suzanne Brockmann who’s having a a vintage year all over the world.