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Sunday: Mandarin immersion in Menlo Park schools?

Parents who are pushing for a Mandarin immersion program in the Menlo Park City School District have organized a film screening and panel discussion on the topic, scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 9, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Menlo Park Library.

The film, "Speaking in Tongues," by Marcia Jarmel will be shown, and Ms. Jarmel will be one of three panelists.

Other panelists will be Stanford professorThomas Sudhof, a 2013 Nobel laureate in medicine/physiology; and U.C. Berkeley professor L. Ling-Chi Wang.

Carol Cunningham, one of the event organizers, said a primary goal of the program is to address "common questions and misconceptions" supporters of Mandarin immersion have encountered since launching their effort. In a letter to parents, she noted that specific concerns and questions the Sunday program will address include cognitive and other benefits of bilingualism, the benefits of an immersion program vs. an enrichment-model program, the growth of Mandarin immersion offerings in public schools, and the anticipated cost of such a program in the Menlo Park City School District.

Ms. Cunningham and other district parents addressed the school board last May, urging board members to support Mandarin immersion instruction in the district. They spoke of the importance of learning a language at a young age, and noted that Mandarin -- the national language of China, Taiwan and Singapore -- is spoken by 1.1 billion people worldwide.

Mandarin language instruction is offered at Woodside High School and La Entrada Middle School, and Menlo-Atherton High School is expected to begin its own program in the fall, Ms. Cunningham said.

The Feb. 9 program is free. The library is at 800 Alma St., in the Menlo Park Civic Center. Seats are limited, and those interested in participating are asked to email miimps1@gmail.com.

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