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Washington school children send a love message to China

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The auditorium at Alice Deal Middle School in Washington D.C. was filled Friday afternoon, as an audience of circa 700 waited for the big finale of the show, a chorus of a Chinese song "I love you China."

The song, written in the 1970s, tells the beauties of the Chinese landscape, the virtues of the Chinese people, and expresses the unreserved affection for China. This time, it was sung by two dozens of middle schools students at Alice Deal.

The pronunciation needed polishing, the tune a bit more practice, but the fondness for China and the Chinese culture was genuine.

The students belonged to a group of 2288 students in the DC Public Schools system which has taken up Chinese as a foreign language, and on this occasion, they are celebrating the Chinese New Year in advance with Chinese learners from the other schools.

After two months of preparation, the show they've put together was impressive. There were time-honored classics such as "My Chinese Heart" and "Jasmine Flower," and newer hits such as "little apple" and "Mouse loves rice."

For high school students, combining Taichi and modern dancing may seem cool, for the elementary school children, a poem recital about the twelve zodiacs was equally as enjoyable.

Among the many dancing programs, the audience was presented with a taste of the culture of Chinese minority groups, as Uyghur, Tibetan and Miao dancers were on stage with matching costumes.

Lindsey Miller, a 8th grader at Alice Deal who participated in the chorus, said that it was really fun performing in front of all the students from other schools.

"I've studied Chinese for three years," she said, "Learning Chinese is fun for me, it's also intriguing and unique."

Wearing a pair of baggy silk pants featuring Chinese embroidery was Chidimma Orusakwe, a sophomore from McKinley High school who joined her classmates in putting on a "Chinese fashion show."

"We got to choose the clothes for ourselves," she said, "I really enjoyed myself on stage."

Zhi Yanming, a Chinese teaching at Alice Deal and a main organizer of the event, said this is the second year schools offering Chinese lessons in DC decided to come together for a celebration.

"Last year there was 13 schools, this year all 15 schools attended," a beaming Zhi told Xinhua.

The DC Public School System offers seven language courses, with the number or students learning Chinese trailing that of Spanish and French classes, but far supersede that of Italian, Latin, Arabic and American Sign Language.

Even though Chinese is not the most widely studied foreign language here, only the Chinese program was able to assemble all participating schools together for a event like this, Zhi said.

Zhi attributed the success of the celebration to the enthusiastic support of the teachers, students, parents and the schools.

"Many families here are very supportive of their children learning Chinese, because they have one consensus, that is learning the language can be hugely beneficial down the road," Zhi said.

Allyson Williams, the world languages manager at DC Public School, said it was evident that Chinese language is gaining traction and the idea of offering Chinese courses in more local schools have been actively explored.

To this initiative, Minister Counsellor for Education Affairs at the Chinese Embassy Cen Jianjun pledged his full backing, saying that his office would provide resources to promote Chinese learning here.

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