Applied Mandarin – A Beautiful Way of Learning a Very Interesting Language.

20 May

It takes the work of learning mandarin to the streets. In the beginning, the tasks are just easy and fun but it rapidly starts challenging students as soon they are able to complete more advanced task.

I am one of the people in charge of the marketing for a private Chinese Language School in Beijing called Beijing Gateway Academy. I really like my job as I do feel that the courses they offer are better than that of other schools and I feel like I can ‘contribute to society’ when I inform students about the hard work of the program management team.

The prices are reasonable for students that want to learn mandarin in a small class environment, much less that for such schools as for example Mandarin House (who I would not want to work for) and about 20% less than Hutong School (who also has a very good offering).

Just as with BGA Hutong School also offers internship programs and volunteering programs in China and they have taken steps to become a much better option than the mainstream cash factory, which I think is epitomized by such schools Mandarin House or the recently closed ACLS.

However, what does make BGA a different school, is the gargantuan time commitment made by my two bosses (You Yang and Xin Li Hong).

They have created a mix of Chinese and Western educational principles that will continue to let the school grow for many years before other schools adopt the same ideas, mainly because they are very difficult to copy. The willingness to sit down and create quality before trying to charge for it is not something that most people are keen to do, not in Sweden (where I am from) or in China (where I live) and it is a pretty nice thing to be part of their work. Especially in China, where I would say it is even less common than in Sweden.

The coolest of their ideas it the Applied Mandarin scheme that is linked to the normal class hours and offered as an extra, free of charge. The scheme takes the work of learning mandarin to the streets, where students are immediately able to apply the language skills. In the beginning, the tasks are just easy and fun: treasure hunts, navigation exercises and the like but it rapidly starts challenging students as soon they are able to complete more advanced tasks. After six or so months students are able to start creating things they were unable to create before, cooperate in ways they were not able to do before and they have actually been made ready to start using their skills in a way that will be useful in their professional life.

Don’ get me wrong, not a single of the students are fully proficient in Mandarin, that would be completely unrealistic, but with a acquired familiarity with the cultural barriers that exist between chinese and western mindset, a vastly heightened ability to communicate ideas that apply to the topics that are important for the students own ambitions, and great secondary skills such as a pretty perfect pronunciation (that comes from tiny class sizes) students can stand on their own two legs.

Currently, the last activity that students get to take part in is creating a movie project in a professional studio located in one of the most prestigious middle schools (Ritan) in China in cooperation with Chinese natives. The superb networks of You Yang and Xin Li Hong has given students access to this resource and about 30 other similarly unique places/environments.

To hang out with students that first come to China, green as apples, easily picked of by veteran Chinese market staff, to when they are veterans themselves of Chinese negotiations, in basic Chinese (!), is a great thing; to see the see the corresponding rise in the students self esteem (in the language), it is just a pretty beautiful process to watch and feel that one was a part of creating.

Have a look at their website. It is a different Chinese language school.

Rui Ming works for a Mandarin Language School that is a great option for those that want to learn mandarin in China.


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