South Academy of International Language
South Academy of International Language
Charlotte, North Carolina
Serves students in grades K–8
South Academy of International Language, formerly known as E.E. Waddell Language Academy and Smith Academy of International Languages, is one of the oldest immersion programs—with one of the longest-standing Mandarin programs—in North Carolina. South Academy of International Language is located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is a part of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district. The program was initiated in 1993 at Bruns Avenue Elementary School as a K-3 German Immersion partial magnet program. French and Japanese immersion joined the German program at Bruns in 2001.
Following the program move to Smith Language Academy in 2002, the program was expanded from K–5 to K–8. In 2007, Chinese Immersion was added to the language offerings. South Academy of International Language offers language immersion in Chinese, French, German, and Japanese in grades K–5.
In the Chinese Immersion program, all of the core subject areas in kindergarten through grade 5 are taught in Mandarin, supplemented by 45 to 60 minutes daily of English Language Arts. In grades 6 through 8, Chinese Language Arts is taught 75 minutes per day. Students also have the opportunity to expand their language studies to any of the other immersion languages which are offered, or they may choose to learn Spanish. In addition, the school collaborates with local high schools to offer continued language studies for high school credit. All immersion teachers are native speakers of the language, many of them working in the United States through teacher exchange programs.
As a public school, immersion instruction at South Academy of International Language strictly adheres to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study as the guiding curriculum for planning, instruction, assessments, and data collection. The program complies with educational mandates formulated by State and Federal regulations. Students traditionally surpass their peers’ academic proficiency levels within the district and the state in Math, Reading, and Science, even though all testing is administered in English and not in the language of instruction.
The school’s mission is to “create bright futures in six languages,” but the work of the school goes beyond this condensed statement. The school recognizes that students are competing on a global stage. The true measure of their success will be their ability to meet—and surpass—international standards and to compete globally in the 21st century. By the time they graduate from middle school, South Academy of International Language students communicate effortlessly and confidently in at least two languages and adapt with ease to different countries, cultures, customs, and people.
Middle school students have the opportunity to participate in a student exchange program with partner schools in China, France, Germany, or Japan. They apply their strong academic skills to solving complex, challenging problems and develop a future plan for using their academic and language skills in an international setting, as an exchange student, traveler, or professional. The school is in the third year of an exchange program with the Beijing Shuangyushu Elementary School No. 1 in Beijing. Waddell students visited the school in Beijing and, while in China, visited several cultural and historic sites. Waddell students have hosted their exchange partners in Charlotte. Many South Academy of International Language students have studied at foreign universities and started international careers.
South Academy of International Language has received national recognition for its language immersion program. The school was honored in 2012 with the Melba D. Woodruff Award as an Exemplary Elementary Foreign Language Program. This award was sponsored by ACTFL (American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages) in collaboration with the Wright Group/McGraw. In addition, Waddell has consistently been recognized as having one of the top magnet programs in the nation by the Magnet Schools of America (MSA).
In January 2016, his Excellency Cui Tiankai, Chinese Ambassador to the United States, was invited to visit Waddell. He interacted with students, observed a Chinese calligraphy lesson in a fifth grade class, and was presented a song by the Chinese Kindergarten classes.
The school has been a model and pilot for many education and research initiatives. It is collaborating with several international and U.S. universities and government institutions. A new collaboration was initiated with the Zhejiang University of Technology following a visit to Waddell by several professors who received information about the language immersion program.
David Lynn, Principal