Summer Mandarin Course Teaches Language and Culture

DSC_8842 Students in Michelle Guo’s Level II Language and Culture course are enjoying their immersive education in Mandarin Chinese. The course’s four students—two boarding and two day students—have all taken Mandarin previously and are hoping to advance their skills as they prepare to enter 8th and 10th grade. Michelle starts the class by leading the students in a series of tongue twisters, which students have said help them to feel more comfortable speaking in class. As all of the students have solid backgrounds in Pinyin, course highlights for the students have been learning to write Chinese characters and using Michelle’s Chinese Survival Guide, a single page with tips and phrases to make conversing easier.

In addition to language skills, the students are building a foundational understanding of Chinese culture. They present to their peers weekly about aspects of Chinese culture, building on lesson themes for the week. The first two weeks included group projects about the Peking Opera and wedding clothing; week three’s cultural activities focused on traditional Chinese foods.

“When we had to do our research on the Peking Opera, I was enthused because I knew a little bit about it,” said a student who participates in the costume crew for school plays and musicals. “I can’t imagine dressing an actor for the Peking Opera, because those costumes seem quite elaborate.”

The students are also experiencing Chinese films, watching selections from the documentary series A Bite of China and the 1987 biopic The Last Emperor, and learning to play games like Chinese checkers. “I persuaded my family to buy a board,” one student said. “My parents are really into it, and when my aunt was over, we played a game that lasted well over an hour.”

Michelle is impressed by her Summer Term students’ initiative. “I feel so proud of them. It is summer, and they are in class with me every day studying,” she said. “Every time they recognize a character, I feel so fulfilled.”