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OREM, Utah (AP) — Tamblyn Lonergan remembers crying at the kitchen table when she was in fourth grade as she told her parents how difficult it was to learn Chinese.
That is now a distant and amusing memory for Lonergan, a 10th grader who is among the first class of Chinese dual immersion students in the Alpine School District who are now in high school and fresh off a recent trip to China where they were able to try out those hard-earned language skills, the Daily Herald in Provo reports.
“I am so happy that they made me stick with it, because I have all this knowledge I can take throughout my whole life,” Lonergan said.
Lonergan and her fellow students traveled to a youth summit at the Suzhou Foreign Language School in Suzhou, China, which the Orem High School students are working to make an official sister school. The students studied different aspects of Chinese culture and did a presentation about what they learned.
“We had to work together, but we all don’t speak the same language, so we had to get through that,” Lonergan said.
The students spent half of their time learning Chinese in elementary school and are expected to have enough college credit by the time they graduate high school to earn a minor in Chinese.
Alan Heath, a Chinese teacher at Orem High School, called the trip to China a great success. He said the benefits to learning Chinese are endless.
“There are so many opportunities business wise, but also with cultural exchanges and with students who just want to experience the world,” Heath said.
The trip also had students not in the dual-immersion program who are taking Chinese courses at Orem High School.
“I struggled for the first few days, and then I’d go up and start the conversation in Chinese instead of English,” said Edwin Nazario. “It got so much easier.”