Singing the praises of bilingual education

Updated: 2011-12-15 07:57

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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 Singing the praises of bilingual education

Black Eyed Peas' frontman will.i.am. Provided to China Daily

Black Eyed Peas' frontman will.i.am will return to China for a star-studded concert entitled Booyi Lehoo in support of the Obama administration's 100,00 Strong Initiative, designed to send more US students to study in Asia.

The White House and the US Department of State - namely, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - invited will.i.am to get involved, he says.

"As part of my philanthropic mission, I encourage American students to study hard to get a good education, and this includes foreign language skills," the musician says, in an e-mail interview with China Daily.

"More American students in public schools need opportunities to learn Mandarin and to study abroad in China, which is why I am supporting 100,000 Strong and performing at the concert."

The concert is the brainchild of Chinese-American singer-songwriter Shunza and was organized by Americans Promoting Study Abroad, a US nonprofit that sponsors low-income students to study the Chinese language and culture in China. It will be will.i.am's third official performance in China, having played in the country with the Black Eyed Peas in 2006 and in 2009.

"Performing with a range of different artists allows us to grow and learn new things from each other," he says.

"It will be fun to perform with apl.de.ap, John Legend, the Bucky Johnson Band, Sa Dingding, Shunza and Coco Lee. And we are all doing this to support 100,000 Strong."

Will.i.am feels at home in many countries because he travels often, he says. He says he meets new people and learns about the music and culture of every place he goes.

"I like music from all over the world, and trips and time spent in Australia and Brazil have influenced my music," he says.

The Black Eyed Peas star has set up the i.am scholarship fund to help underprivileged teenagers attend university in 2009 and believes it's important to be generous with one's wealth and help others.

"It's a big world, and international travel is exciting and eye-opening," he says of the scholarship.

Students from Boyle Heights, the neighborhood where will.i.am grew up, are already bilingual in English and Spanish, he says. And now they are learning Mandarin, which will give them an advantage when they join the workforce.

"The more people who have careers (and) good jobs in Boyle Heights, the more they can help transform and improve the neighborhood," he says.

China Daily

(China Daily 12/15/2011 page18)