Abigail Lim / Staff reporter

The first class of the Mandarin bilingual program will be graduating from Gleneagle in less than 3 years. This will mark the first graduates of the program in the Coquitlam School District. Although the Mandarin bilingual program has been at Gleneagle for two years, many students do not have prior knowledge about the program.

The program consists of eight grade 10 students and 19 grade 9 students. All of these students have been learning Mandarin since 2010 when they were kindergarten or grade 1 students at Walton elementary school. The students got their spots through a draw that they had entered.

The Mandarin bilingual program at Gleneagle is taught by Anne Lim. Mandarin bilingual students are integrated into courses with students learning the language outside of the program in the Mandarin 11 and 12 classes.

“What I see is a robust program all the way through [high school],” stated Kim Cuellar, vice-principal at Gleneagle. Like many others in the program, she also hopes that the program will grow, following the current pattern of the program at Gleneagle Secondary.

In comparison with the Mandarin language courses at Gleneagle, “The bilingual program offers more of an opportunity to become functionally fluent in the language.” Said Cuellar. This is because students are surrounded by native speakers, where students can immerse themselves into the language and naturally pick up on how to speak it.

The Mandarin bilingual program offers many opportunities to its students in and out of the classroom setting. Jackie Peng, grade 9, said, “It gives us more job opportunities. I feel like a lot of people speak Mandarin, so we can understand [them] better.”

Yu-Xing Lim, grade 10 said, “It helps us communicate effectively in the world…especially now, because there are a lot more Mandarin speakers.” Lim added that there is a higher demand in work forces for those who speak Mandarin.

With the many benefits, learning Mandarin also brings many new challenges. The program requires commitment, dedication, and discipline from its students, especially at the fast pace of learning.

Each student in the program has different strengths and weaknesses, especially for those who are non-native speakers. Sarah Webster, grade 9, said, “I do not speak any Mandarin at home.…I think being in the program improves my study habits because I really need to put in my full effort into learning the language. It does not come easy.”

“In middle school, there were not a lot of opportunities to actually speak Mandarin, so I feel the speaking component is a bit weak for me,” said Kendra Cheng, grade 9. She added that she wanted to improve on this during her time at Gleneagle.

Unlike the regular classes outside of the program, “The sense of community that we formed together was built and brought together over the years of being in the program,” Lim said.

“Usually, When you meet new people, they are just acquaintances […] but having been with each other for so long, it just feels natural to be with them,” Webster said.

Over the course of being in the Mandarin bilingual program, students have made long-lasting and impactful memories that they have brought with them into high school. “I have made many bonds with my classmates and friends along the way…it is great to be able to share these own experiences with each other,” said Lim.

The Mandarin bilingual program’s next item on their agenda is their potential trip to China. This will be an exciting event leading up to the first graduating class in the Coquitlam school district.