Among a wall of comics, images, and fun memes on learning Mandarin, Diana Corey’s classroom displays a poster of the language’s one thousand most widely used characters. The dedicated Crossroads students who take Mandarin have a goal of eventually learning these and more (Diana herself knows between 4,000-5,000 characters). As the most widely spoken language in the world and the main dialect of the Chinese language, Mandarin is growing in popularity among Crossroads students. There are seven courses being taught this year, ranging from Mandarin A and B for middle school students, to Mandarin 1-5 for high school.
“Students who take Mandarin are up for the challenge,” says Diana Corey, Crossroads’ Mandarin teacher for the past seven years. “It takes a certain level of commitment to learn a new language and with Mandarin, students are learning how to write individual characters in addition to the typical reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills that go with learning a foreign language.”
Mandarin students also have the unique opportunity to build community across difference and gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture. The Chinese Club meets weekly and includes native Chinese students through our partnership with the Cambridge Institute. “Our native Chinese speakers are excited to support our Mandarin students as tutors and through cultural exchange with the Chinese Club,” Diana adds. The Chinese Club meets weekly and engages students around language and culture, including pop culture, food, and holiday celebrations.
Diana and her classes have also formed a unique connection with a Chinese orphanage network. In a student-driven service project, groups contribute their time to Chinese-English translation of reports to adopted families who sponsor the children from the United States. Students also write in Chinese to prospective Crossroads students in China describing the school and a typical day at Crossroads.
Students also have the opportunity to build their Mandarin skills through immersion; every two years Diana brings a group of students to China. The next group will be forming for a visit this summer. “Our students get more engaged with the language as they go through the program and we try to keep it fun and connect to culture through Chinese art, cooking, and celebration of festivals.”