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Tigard 10-year-old aces Chinese fluency test

PORTLAND - Richy Swinford of Tigard recently received an A grade on the Chinese government's Young Learners Chinese Test (YCT), a test for non-native Chinese learners under the age of 15.

The test is designated YCT Level 2, which is designed for students who have mastered a Chinese vocabulary of 1100 characters.

Swinford, 10, was one of only six children at the school to attempt the Level 2 test.

'I like learning Chinese because it is challenging,' Swinford said. 'Learning Chinese is important because if people don't know other languages, there won't be any international cooperation.'

Swinford has been studying Chinese in the total immersion program at The International School in Portland since preschool. He and his classmates study an American curriculum with all of their subjects - math, science, social studies, etc - taught in Chinese by native Chinese speakers.

'Richy uses the same textbooks as his peers in China,' said Yafei Liu, lead Chinese teacher and 11-year veteran of The International School program. 'I am very proud of him.'

The YCT test aims to confirm the candidate's ability to communicate with simple vocabulary in social interactions, to read and understand short passages, and to write short sentences about learning or daily activities. The YCT test was administered at The International School in December.

The International School provides a multicultural environment where children are fully immersed in Spanish, Japanese or Chinese language and culture. Children become bilingual as they learn a full American curriculum with native speaking teachers, small classes and high expectations.

The International School, founded in 1990, educates more than 370 children and was awarded the Oregon Consular Corps 2008 International Award.