At MPA, we are proud to offer a thriving Mandarin program. Our program boasts two phenomenal faculty members; Dr. Zhao and Ms. Shi, and leveled classes throughout our curriculum from Pre-K all the way up to Upper School Mandarin 4 Honors. We are not the only school experiencing a surge in interest in this key language; participation in Mandarin programs in the United States has doubled in the last couple of years. That may very well have something to do with initiatives such as President Obama’s “1 Million Strong” program, which seeks to increase the number of Mandarin students in the US to 1,000,000 by the year 2020.

DSC_0029xThe reasons behind this push are numerous and obvious. China is home to about 20% of the world population. The US and China have long been important trade partners as China is the world’s second largest economy, and may someday (soon) become the first. Political and military relations with China play an increasingly prominent role in US foreign policy. It stands to reason that the US will need many more Mandarin speakers in the coming decades to meet the needs of business and government alike.

Students with an interest in foreign relations can stand out amongst their peers by mastering what is undoubtedly one of the most important languages in the world. Even students with little interest in international careers, however, can find an urgent reason to study Mandarin. Did you know that in the last 30 years, the number of Chinese-speaking residents of the United States has increased by 360%? Mandarin, then, is not only a language spoken by citizens of a far-away country, but may also become the native tongue of many future neighbors, friends, and clients. For example, NPR reports that firefighters in New York City have been taking Mandarin classes to help better serve the growing Chinese community in that city. Most any professional who works with the public (doctor, lawyer, teacher, police officer, civil servant, and salesman) can benefit from being able to better communicate with members of one of the fastest-growing segments of our society.

In our department, we love the languages that we teach. We know, though, that we are not training classrooms full of language teachers or scholars. Our students, rather, are looking for skills that can help them be successful and sought-after in their future career, whatever that may be. Mandarin is a great choice for many students, and we are so happy to be able to offer them the opportunity to learn it at MPA.

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By Lisa Camastro

Ms. Camastro teaches Spanish II, III, and IV in the Upper School and is our curriculum leader for World Languages. Read more in her Q&A.