|Why Study Chinese|
Congratulations on starting the search for your child's Chinese language introduction.
Education experts agree that the earlier a child is introduced to a second language, the greater the chances are that the child will become truly proficient in the language.
For example, each Mandarin syllable has four tones that can mean different things. For example, "ma" in the first tone means "mother," while spoken in the third tone means "horse." Younger children find it much easier to learn a tonal language such as Chinese because they can mimic sounds much easier than older children or adults.
According to the Connecticut Department of Education, the number of public school students studying Mandarin, mostly non-Asian, has seen a more than ten-fold increase from 2004 to 20061. As more Connecticut public and private schools offer Mandarin classes at the middle school and high school level, CLSC students will have an educational advantage since they will have started at a much younger age.
In addition, for those students whose schools only offer Chinese once or twice per week, regular exposure to Chinese via CLSC tutoring and small private classes, will enhance their overall Chinese learning experience.
1 Winnie Hu, "Non-Asians Show a Growing Interest in Chinese Courses," The New York Times, November 29, 2006.
Culture: Learning the Chinese language and culture will allow students to explore an ancient culture, rich with innovation and historical significance. From writing Chinese characters, to learning about the 7 Sages during a watercolor painting exercise, to playing traditional Chinese games, students will be introduced to one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
Communication: Mandarin Chinese is spoken by nearly one out of every four people on the planet. As China grows in economic and political importance, it is critical that U.S. students become global citizens, and that they are given the opportunity to communicate in Chinese and to be familiar with Chinese customs and culture.
Enhanced Cognitive Ability: [From the BBC News and the Guardian, June 30, 2003] According to Dr. Sophie Scott, a psychologist at the Wellcome Trust, and colleagues from hospitals in Oxford and London who performed brain scans on volunteers as they listened to their native languages, when English speakers heard English, their left temporal lobes lit up on screen. When Mandarin Chinese speakers heard their native tongue, both right and left lobes buzzed with activity.
The left temporal lobe is normally associated with piecing sounds together into words; the right with processing melody and intonation.
"Speech really is a complex sound," said Dr Scott. "As well as understanding words, the brain uses the way in which words are spoken, such as intonation and melody, to turn spoken language into meaning. This system has to be robust and flexible enough to deal with variations in speech sounds such as regional accents. We think Mandarin speakers interpret intonation and melody in the right temporal lobe to give correct meaning to the spoken words."
The study suggests that language itself might affect the way the brain develops in a young child.
Improved Skills: In its 1992 report, College Bound Seniors: The 1992 Profile of SAT and Achievement Test Takers, the College Entrance Examination Board reported that "students who averaged 4 or more years of foreign language study scored higher on the verbal section of the SAT than those who had studied 4 or more years in any other subject area. This finding echoes many experts' belief that learning a second language can improve not only a child's aptitude in English, but also enhance creativity and problem-solving skills."
Global Edge: Mandarin Chinese is spoken by nearly 25% of the world’s population. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, commentator and fund manager Jim Rogers, former president of Goldman Sachs John L. Thornton, former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, and News Corp's chairman Rupert Murdoch are just a few of the world's leaders that speak Chinese or realize the importance of learning Mandarin.
And, in April, 2011, the IMF predicted that China’s economy will surpass the U.S.’s as early as 2016(2).
With the emergence of China as a growing global superpower, the importance understanding China's global relevance cannot be understated.