NEW YORK, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- China Institute is to launch its Mandarin full immersion preschool for students as young as two and a half years old next fall.
"It's the latest extension of our school. We're very excited that we are able to bring all these years of experience understanding of the importance of bicultural bilingual education for kids," Shenzhan Liao, head of the School of Chinese Studies of China Institute, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
"It's a trend that learning Chinese has gone younger and younger. For the past 10 to 15 years, we've seen a surge of learning Chinese in the K-12 school system," Liao said.
"Now it really is going towards the younger age. It is tremendously in need for preschool Mandarin education particularly in the financial district we're located," she added. "Many parents are very interested in sending their kids to learn different language and culture."
The upcoming Mandarin full immersion preschool will have two boutique classes of about 12 students maximum, one for the younger group -- two and a half to three-years-olds, and the other for the junior -- three to four-year-olds, according to Liao.
"In fact, our children's (Mandarin) program is the earliest in New York City starting after school and summer programs. That was late 1980s," added Liao, while China Institute is well-known for its Mandarin education for adults.
Liao and her colleagues are holding a series of free, monthly info sessions designed for parents and children to explore the new preschool.
Founded in 1926, China Institute is the oldest bicultural, non-profit organization in the United States to focus exclusively on China.
About 30 years ago, Chinese was categorized along with Arabic, Swahili and Icelandic as a "Less Commonly Taught Language" in the United States and now the world's oldest written language is the second most commonly spoken non-English language, only after Spanish in the country, according to a survey by 24/7 Wall Str.