The benefits of learning a second language have been well documented: increased memory, cognitive ability, ability to multitask, and even improvement in first language skills. Benefits compound the earlier children start learning, so we start in kindergarten, with children learning Mandarin Chinese every year. Why Chinese?
In addition to having more native speakers than any other language, Chinese is growing in importance in an interconnected world. The language itself also provides students with unique learning opportunities.
Mandarin Chinese has four tones. This means that the same syllable pronounced in four different ways, has four different meanings. For example, the sound “ma” can mean mom, horse, numb, or to insult depending on which tone is used. Understanding and using a tonal language activates parts of the brain that we don’t use in English, and it has been shown to enhance musical ability.
Written Chinese uses symbols, or “characters,” instead of an alphabet. The logic of characters and their parts is something totally new–and usually fascinating–for our young students. Over the years, we have found that–because it uses completely different cognitive skills–some students who struggle with English reading, thrive in Chinese. For all students, we love that written Chinese gives them exposure to different ways of thinking and communicating.
An important part of studying a language is understanding its cultural setting. Students learn to appreciate cultural differences as they study Chinese customs and manners, festivals, and traditional stories.
Every year we celebrate the lunar New Year with a grand celebration featuring activities, food, live Zodiac animals, school tours, and our Dragon Dance Team.
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