Why learn Mandarin Chinese?

Mandarin Chinese is by no means an easy language to learn. In fact, the US Department’s Foreign Service Institute categorizes Mandarin Chinese as a Category IV language. This means that for native English-speakers, Mandarin is exceptionally difficult. So what convinces our students to dedicate their time and mental energy to learning such a challenging language? What moves them to go beyond a token ‘nihao’? Or a desire to order more than char sui kai fan at their local Chinese restaurant? Fortunately for us, our students are all too happy to share their motives, which are quite diverse. Let’s see what some have said.

Vaughn, completed Levels 1A – 3B

My motivation: I started studying Mandarin after my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Science shows that studying a foreign a language is a good way to keep the brain healthy. So I decided to choose the most difficult one – Mandarin.

My learner experience: What I have enjoyed about my classes is that they are not about the language alone. We get to learn about the Chinese culture which is vast and interesting. This is not something I would have done on my own. As a result, I can gladly share what I learnt with my students who are always fascinated when they find out that I can speak some Chinese. They get excited for me to say something to them in Chinese.

My greatest challenge: The most difficult thing is trying to speak like a native, with proper tones, and yet not sound foreign. I have not mastered that as yet.

My advice: I will certainly encourage everyone to learn this language since China is going to all areas of the world and it will be useful to have some understanding of the language and culture of the people with whom we do business.

Michelle & Kadesha, completed Levels 1A – 3A/3B

Michelle-and-Kadesha-Chinese-studentsOur motivation: Entertainment and communication. Currently, we use Chinese in our daily lives. We are able to watch and understand the context of Chinese dramas and shows without the use of subtitles. We have also had encounters where we have been able to communicate with Chinese natives in restaurants on a basic level.

Our learner experience: Since September of 2018, we’ve both studied Chinese Mandarin, making it almost three years of studying the language in a formal setting. Our experience learning Chinese at the CLL has been exceptional. With the aid of very supportive tutors our language learning journey was even more enjoyable. Even with the limits as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the CLL administration has facilitated effective ways of online language learning. Not only have we learnt how to apply the language in quintessential aspects such as reading, writing and listening, we have also learnt a lot about Chinese culture and history, such as cultural festivals and the distinct cuisines of the provinces.

Our advice: Learning Chinese at the CLL has improved our memory through the memorization of Chinese characters and we have had the pleasure of connecting with others who share our love for the Chinese language and culture. We encourage others to start their Chinese language learning journey as it has proven to be an enlightening and delightful experience thus far.

Sonia, completed Levels 1A – 2A

My motivation: I have a non-profit cultural company that does a lot of volunteer work with schools and the public where we try to expose people to different languages and cultures. The guidance and education that we received with Ms. Lutchman helped us to organise free cultural activities for young children in schools.

My learner experience: It was amazing in class! Fun, exciting, engaging. It was nice to meet and connect with so many people while learning about the language and the culture. Classes with Ms. Lutchman were always something to look forward to! Plus, it took away all of my apprehension that I had been feeling for years.

My advice: Firstly, since we live in such a multicultural society and in an age of globalisation; any sort of exposure to a foreign language is an advantage. Secondly, learning Mandarin Chinese expands your knowledge about the myriad of traditions and cultures that exist in China. As well as the similarities and differences compared to Trinidad.

Exciting opportunities thanks to learning Mandarin Chinese

Having heard directly from a few students, let’s turn our attention to how learning Mandarin Chinese has opened the doors to new opportunities for our students.

Kia, completed Levels 1A – 3B
Kia-Mohan-Chinese-studentKia received the 2nd Place prize in the preliminary round of the Trinidad and Tobago Chinese Bridge Chinese Language Proficiency Contest. She won an all-expenses paid trip to China. She comments, “Mandarin is definitely the most intricate and difficult language to learn. However, no other language has given me the great opportunity to travel and be fully immersed in the language and culture as Mandarin did within the span of 6 months. Therefore, as challenging as the language may be, it is definitely the most rewarding thus far. Being a student of International Relations, this language has further opened a plethora of opportunities for me. I look forward to my continued involvement in the Chinese language and culture.”

Steffan, completed Levels 1A – 3B
Steffan is an avid dragon boat racer on the local circuit, having participated in the sport since 2014. He is the helmsman of the Excellent Stores Titans. He also coached the UTT team from 2018-2019. In 2020, he placed in the Top 10 in the “My China Story” Essay Contest, organized by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Trinidad and Tobago. The Top 10 best story writers were invited to a special ceremony. On this occasion, Ambassador Fang Qiu shared his gratitude for the writers sharing their unforgettable stories.

Tamara, completed Levels 1A – 3B
Tamara is an engineering student at UWI who participated in an exchange programme to Shanghai. She went on to receive a scholarship to do her masters with Beihang University. Like Steffan, Tamara also placed in the Top 10 in the “My China Story” Essay Contest, organized by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Trinidad and Tobago.

Certainly our Mandarin Chinese learners come from a wide range of educational and ethnic backgrounds. However, they are united in their sincere interest in the language and its diverse culture. We are extremely proud of how they have gone on to use Mandarin in their personal, professional, and academic lives. If you are interested in learning more about our Mandarin Chinese program, click here or contact us via email.