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New Post 03.03.2009 10:25
  shuai
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Students in Summit learn Chinese culture, philosophy through study of Mandarin 

Students in Summit learn Chinese culture, philosophy through study of Mandarin

by Summit Board of Education
Friday February 27, 2009, 8:17 AM

SUMMIT -- Upon entering the classroom, students formally acknowledge each other and their instructor with a bow and a greeting of "Zao an" the Mandarin expression for "good morning."
This is the opening scene in a Mandarin I class at Summit High School, and the students, who have been studying this Chinese language for only a few months, are demonstrating considerable proficiency in basic conversation. Their teacher, Lily Wang, speaking in Mandarin, gives them instructions for beginning the day's lessons, and the students get to work on using the language doing authentic tasks." Student interest is evident in the lively classroom by the many students raising their hands to call for assistance, "laoshi-teacher!"

Three sections of Mandarin I began at Summit High School last September, and 73 students enrolled in the classes. The introductory class is being supported by a generous grant from the Summit Educational Foundation (SEF). Next year, Mandarin I and II will be offered at Summit High School.
Ms. Wang said studying Mandarin will certainly benefit the students in this era of expanding globalization. "China is a growing power in politics and the world economy," said Ms. Wang, a native of Taiwan. "It is important that students have a knowledge of the language and culture of China."
Ms. Wang holds a bachelor'sfrom the National Taiwan University, a master's degree from the University of California in Davis and a master's degree in Asian Studies, with a focus on teaching Chinese language and culture, from Seton Hall. Before coming to Summit High School, she worked for a pharmaceutical company and at the information resource center at NJIT. She also taught Chinese language in a Chinese Heritage school.
Mandarin is the official language of China, said Ms. Wang, spoken by most of China's 1.3 billion people. Mandarin has for centuries been the language of government officials and scholars in Beijing, and the word "mandarin" means "officer." Mandarin is different from other romance languages because the characters or symbols of the written language do not have a relationship to pronunciation. "In Mandarin, it is difficult to learn to match the character with the pronunciation," Ms. Wang said.
To learn Mandarin characters, Ms. Wang said students must first learn the "radical" or key component of each character. "In this beginning level of Mandarin, I want the students to master correct pronunciation tones and have some basic writing skills built upon radicals. Speaking proficiency is our goal," she said. "I want to move slowly with the students and to focus on the accuracy of pronunciation and tones (pinyin) and on writing radicals with the correct sequence of strokes."
Ms. Wang said the students are quite interested in learning how to write the characters, some of which are pictographs and are visually similar to the object they represent. "There is a strong link between Chinese language, culture, and philosophy," she said, "and Mandarin I is giving students an introduction to all three."


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