Posts Tagged ‘Chinese education’

Mandarin for “Dummies”

Much attention has been paid to the current craze for studying Chinese, especially in the U.S., and Mandarin programs in public and private schools are mushrooming, as an article I posted last week demonstrates. The obvious line of reasoning goes that China’s increasing clout on the global economic stage means that learning the language will present future financial benefits for today’s young learners. All true, but there can be other more compelling reasons to learn the language as well. On her blog, Aimee Barnes writes movingly about how Mandarin helped save her from her learning disability and a troubled family life. “In Mandarin, as in poetry, I had finally found my own path through memory, cadence and tone. Through the rhythm of a character,” she writes. Read the rest of her beautiful post here.


Recommended Readings

From around the Internet:

- “Foreign Languages Fade in Class — Except Chinese” from the New York Times, on the growing popularity of Chinese in American schools amid declining availability of foreign language courses in general. Some notable stats: “Rough calculations based on the government’s survey suggest that perhaps 1,600 American public and private schools are teaching Chinese, up from 300 or so a decade ago” and Chinese is about to surpass German to become the third most popular language for AP courses.

- Benefits of Studying Chinese from the World of Reading Ltd Blog – a handy list for anyone contemplating studying the language.

- Education as a Path to Conformity in the New York Times. Looks at the pressures placed on Chinese students and the lack of creative thinking in Chinese education, by Didi Kirsten Tatlow, whose six-year-old is in a local school in China.


Recommended Readings

A few readings from around the web that may be of interest:

- “Child’s play in China” a British journalist and father writes about the different attitudes toward play he sees in his children and their Chinese classmates

On a related note, an American teacher in Beijing writes about a generation of only children in China being educated without much training in leadership or team work.

And on the topic of play (about which I feel strongly), here is an excellent public radio program on “the educational power of things like play, sports, music, memorization and reflection”:

(If you can’t hear this, click here.)

This last one is not directly China related, though I have found that my children learn Chinese, like other subjects, best through playing, creating, singing, and imagining in the language, not through memorization or sitting still in a classroom and being taught. This program presents a powerful argument for why that is so.

- NPR reporter Scott Simon writes a beautiful essay in the Wall Street Journal reflecting on Thanksgiving with his Jewish-French-Irish-Chinese family including two adopted Chinese daughters:

Our Chinese children sit at the Passover table and scrounge for Easter eggs. They wear “South Side Irish” green scarves around their necks on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s all in the family.

My wife came home one day from our daughters’ Chinese culture class to announce there would be no class next week. “Because of the Jewish holidays,” she explained, straight-faced. Only in America. Our girls speak French, like their mother. My wife and I join our girls to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in Mandarin. We’ve learned that families mixed by marriage or adoption don’t shrink or starve a heritage. They nourish it with newcomers.

Happy Thanksgiving. 感恩节快乐!