According to the College Board and Asia Society, the number of American K-12 students studying Mandarin Chinese has quadrupled from 50,000 to nearly 200,000 between 2007 and 2012. This is a huge leap in comparison to the year 2000 when there were only 5,000 American K-12 students taking Mandarin. From students to business executives and high-end retailers all over the world, people on Wall Street, Main Street, and Sesame Street suddenly want to learn Mandarin Chinese. Why this sudden boom in Mandarin Chinese? Is this interest in learning Mandarin Chinese here to stay or will it recede as did interest in Japanese during the 1980s?
If Mandarin is arguably one of the hardest languages to learn, are there any methods available that can make the learning process more affordable and easier, an equitable learning experience for all students? These are questions that educators around the world are being confronted with as the popularity of Chinese explodes. If the number of students interested in learning Chinese continues to grow exponentially, then our education system indeed has a great need for a cost- effective, convenient, and proven method that can allow schools to keep up with this Chinese language boom.
Over the past decade, parents and educators have started to realize that our children should begin to harness a more productive relationship with China than we have in the past. The well-being of the United States and China is now deeply intertwined, and our nation’s leaders recognize China as America’s most important partner. As a dominant economic power in the world, China’s economic prowess continues to grow year-after-year. Economists and business elites are predicting China will become the world’s economic leader within the next fifteen years (Committee of 100, 2012 US-China Public Perceptions Survey). Both countries need each other more than ever to resolve global and economic challenges. In May 2010, the U.S. government formally recognized the importance of Mandarin Chinese and China as a growing international business power by launching the “100,000 Strong Initiative.” This program is a call for public- private partnerships to facilitate 100,000 American students learning Mandarin in China by 2014. The crux of this initiative is to instill an interest in China and its culture among American students.
From the looks of it, Mandarin Chinese is here to stay for the long haul. Our world is now more interconnected than ever, and technology has made the world a smaller place. Children are growing up to compete in a global economy that is fueled and in many ways dominated by China. In 2011, Bloomberg Business & Financial News identified “Mandarin Chinese as the most useful business language worldwide after English.” Over 845 million people speak Mandarin, and 20% of the world’s population lives in China. Mandarin is already an official language of the World Bank and World Health Organization. Learning Mandarin has become essential for success in the international job market, particularly in Asia. An August 2009 New York Times article states, “China is becoming a new land of opportunity and employment haven for recent American college graduates.” In order to prepare students to compete in a globalized world, students will need to be able to interact with their counterparts in China on an equal footing. When a school adds Chinese to its curriculum, it is making the right decision for its students. There is an obvious link between education and economic development, and an absolute connection between academic achievement and workforce development. In order for students to become competitive players in today’s global workforce, it is imperative to become multilingual and multicultural. The NAFSA (the Association of International Educators) points out that 20% of US jobs depend on international trade and that trade depends, in some measure, on cultural understanding. Therefore, becoming bilingual is no longer something our students should just do for fun or as a hobby. Speakers of Chinese have an enormous advantage over their competition when applying to college, or seeking jobs and opportunities in today’s global Outside of economics, employment, and the business world, China has the oldest continuous culture and longest recorded history of over 5000 years. Chinese cultural influence in the world has historically been immense and is now experiencing a great revival. To fully understand the rich heritage and nuances of ancient and modern China, droves of students are flocking to schools that offer Mandarin Chinese and culture classes. This explosion of interest that is taking place in the classroom has caused public and private schools alike to seek out Mandarin Chinese instructors, even in the midst of budget cuts. On the one hand, the great demand for Chinese exists; on the other, limited budgets often restrict schools from acquiring the teachers and materials they need. Many school systems are just getting by and cannot justify hiring new instructors with full-time benefits as many educators are being dismissed to meet budget restraints. Likewise, private schools have a hard time justifying tuition increases. The budget crunch combined with many schools’ limited exposure to the options available for teaching Mandarin Chinese have prevented them from providing students with the opportunity to learn how to forge meaningful relationships with China.
However, from Alaska to Florida, and California to New York, one highly-praised education vendor is giving schools with limited resources hope with its engaging, tested and proven, low-cost solution for teaching Chinese to students of all ages and faculty members alike: Mando Mandarin Online Chinese School. Mando Mandarin is changing the way schools are teaching Mandarin Chinese. Founded in 2007 as an online tutoring agency offering 1-on- 1 lessons, Mando Mandarin has grown to become a premier provider of synchronous distance- learning courses to elementary, middle, and high schools across America. Distinguishing itself from language software programs or other online vendors, Mando Mandarin connects students and classrooms to its live teachers who are located in China, providing students with the ability to interact with real, native Mandarin instructors Lessons are taught in real-time as students log-in to online classrooms and use webcams and headsets to communicate with their peers and teachers. Mando Mandarin’s unique methodology and personable teachers provide a very engaging approach and easy gateway into the language, making it much less intimidating to learn. Instructors place a strong initial focus on pronunciation, and utilize a modern and fast system for teaching new grammar and vocabulary.
All lessons are recorded which allows Mando Mandarin staff to provide school administrators, teachers, parents, and students with valuable feedback about each individual student’s progress. Students are invited and always have access to view all lesson recordings, so learners never fall behind, even if they must miss classes. During class, students can turn on their cameras, raise their hands, draw Chinese characters on the whiteboard, collaborate with other students, or send Chinese text instant messages to the teacher. Important dates, announcements, class materials, homework assignments, quizzes and exams are shared or distributed using email or Mando Mandarin’s web-based Learning Management System.
The Scenic Heights Elementary School, an Chinese-immersion public school in Minnetonka, MN, is bringing Mando Mandarin back to its school for a third consecutive year. While the school already has Chinese teachers on-site , they have also hired Mando Mandarin to complement and enhance their existing Chinese courses. According to their Principal Joe Wacker, “Mando Mandarin has been great. The kids are excited, they love the homework, and they love the teachers. It’s been so successful that our Spanish teachers wish they had something like this for Spanish. I’m overly-pleased about it. The main thing is that the kids are really happy about it. One of the kids even wrote a letter to The Minnetonka School Board to thank us for how much Mando Mandarin has done for him. I’ve been thrilled with what [Mando Mandarin] has done. Next year we will have more students who will take Mando Mandarin classes.“
Mando Mandarin allows client schools, depending on their budgetary and scheduling restrictions, to choose from several different course options ranging from full intensive (five days per week) academic curricula, or short-term verbal (communicative) enrichment-based classes. Communicative means the classes focus on language that is used on a day-to-day basis for practical or business purposes. The communicative methodology applies a very practical approach to learning and is geared towards learners who just want the bare basics, to speak and understand basic Mandarin. After just ten hours, students will be able to begin expressing themselves using Mandarin using small-talk or in brief conversations. Classes begin with pinyin (the phonetic transcription of Chinese words, a system using Roman alphabetic letters to represent Chinese characters as syllables that makes learning to pronounce Chinese words much easier) and basic, commonly used phrases in what is commonly called “survival Mandarin.”
The academic approach is an in-depth study of Chinese which takes a closer look at grammar rules, cultural significance of the language, nuances of the Chinese language and is typically for schools who want its students to prepare for standardized exams or reach very high levels of proficiency in speaking and writing. At the end of just the first ten hours of Mando Mandarin lessons, students are expected to have learned at a minimum: Pinyin and the four different Chinese tones the basic foundation of the Chinese pronunciation and writing system Chinese cultural references. Chinese history and traditional and modern culture ask for directions, traveling in a taxi order food and drinks numbers, money, time and dates other useful phrases, customized according to what the students want to learn Type and write some Chinese characters Mando Mandarin courses also do provide formative and summative assessments, assignments and projects, and feedback on students’ progress. Mando Mandarin’s methodology utilizes an “East meets West” approach which has combined TCFL (Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language) perspectives from the top Chinese universities and American universities and experts. Teaching strategies and materials are formulated and continuously improved by our Education Directors who have a combined Chinese teaching experience of over 30 years. As an American-born Chinese student of Mandarin myself, I could barely speak the language when I was a child. I also knew how hard it was to learn Chinese from an American’s point of view. After years of schooling when I finished my studies at New York University, I realized it was in my best interest to get in touch with my roots, become a better Mandarin speaker, and see what opportunities were available in the world’s fastest growing country. So, in 2007 I moved to Shanghai to find the best way to learn Chinese. I interviewed over 30 different schools, and tried many programs. Eventually, I met a group of teachers who really impressed me with their varying approaches to teaching Chinese; each had a tremendous track record for successfully teaching thousands of students. I brought these teachers together to share their knowledge and resources amongst each other, to create a new, 21st century approach to teaching Chinese for the future. Together, we formed Mando Mandarin.
My personal mission in life is helping to preserve balance and a prosperous, peaceful relationship between the United States, China, and the rest of the world. Mando Mandarin’s vision is to bring people together and create mutually beneficial relationships by building bridges of understanding and opening channels of communication, by connecting people through Chinese language and culture. Now, more than ever, we need to inspire children to become future ambassadors of cultural awareness. Therefore, Mando Mandarin is about more than just teaching language. At its core, it’s really about bringing people together and creating relationships on a grassroots level. Mando Mandarin’s track record has proven that we offer one of the most effective and economical ways for schools to offer their students to learn this essential language. Hiring a teacher to teach Mandarin Chinese could cost some schools upwards of $45,000 per year. Schools can now hire Mando Mandarin teachers for less than 20% of that amount. We also offer free demo lessons that are designed to reveal some of our best practices and teaching methods, provide client references and transparency, and answer any questions your school may have. For more information about how we teach, pricing, or free demo lessons, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mike Cheng is the Founder and President of Mando Mandarin, the #1 Online Chinese School for all ages and levels (www.mandomandarin.com). He is a pioneering American educator who has connected schools and students around the world to teachers who are physically located in China. Mike regularly travels between New York and China while building a Sino-American education and business network. He believes the world needs more unofficial ambassadors of socio-cultural exchange between nations –those who can build bridges of peace and eradicate barriers to understanding. Mike has been seen in USA Today, Yahoo!Finance, Morningstar, CNBC, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Daily News and MarketWatch, among many others. He has also been invited as a speaker at American Express and NYU Steinhardt Graduate School of Education. He currently lives in Flushing, NY where he has an interest in politics and aspires to become a community leader. His hobbies are hanging out with his bearded-collie, traveling, learning foreign languages, martial arts, and basketball.