Around 30 Sioux Falls students are choosing to wake up early for a few weeks this summer, to learn a new language.
Maddy Ryan is one of about 30 high school students taking Chinese this week and next in the Sioux Falls School District. The four-hour-per-day course is both interactive and intensive.
"In the beginning it was a little hard because all they do is speak Chinese to you, you have to pick it up," Lincoln High School freshman Maddy Ryan said.
The class is run through the Digital Dakota Network, or DDN, and the instructors are out of the University of Kansas. Ryan is already fluent in Spanish, and is excited to add a new language to her list.
"It's just good to know more languages so you have experience with it if you ever do need to know those kinds of things," she said.
The class was made possible through a federal grant that promotes students learning more languages in a global economy.
"Business between China and America is getting bigger and more important. We have a lot of people from China who know English and speak it very well, but we don't have many people from American who can use Chinese well enough," Chengkuan Zhou said.
Zhou says it's exciting to see students learn his native language, even though two weeks isn't nearly enough time to pick up on everything.
"I speak English as a second language but I still like people to learn Chinese, because we can get to know each other better," Zhou said.
And slowly close the gap that can separate nations.
The Sioux Falls School District does offer Chinese at Lincoln High School, but many students have trouble fitting it into their schedules because it's a two-period class.
The course is offered at Rosa Parks Elementary School, which also houses the district's Spanish Immersion Program.