New Mandarin Course Gains Interest Among Students

By Carly Grossman
This year, Scotch Plains–Fanwood High school spruced up the Foreign Language department by adding Mandarin Chinese into the available language lineup.
Students can only take Mandarin if they are in 11th or 12th grades, and there are over 35 students taking the course currently. The course is taught by Kimberly OuYang, who is very enthusiastic about this new class. “It’s great; there is a good variety of students, and they are all as excited as I am for this course,” said OuYang.
Mandarin is an elective offered by the language department, and students can take it in addition to their other language course. The school received a large donation of educational books, posters and videos from China in 2009 to be used as supplement to the Mandarin course.
Western languages differ greatly from Mandarin. Mandarin is composed of completely unique characters that require skill and precision to create.  Kerri Killeen, a senior taking Mandarin, said, “The class can be overwhelming at times, but it’s rewarding and enjoyable. Mandarin definitely requires more work then Western Languages, and for that reason we do have more work than other languages might.”
Over the summer, there was a course offered through the school that taught a very introductory approach to Mandarin. Students involved in the program met for three hours every day for four weeks in July. Sophomore Javier Guerrero took the summer course and enjoyed the cultural experience best. Guerrero said, “It was quite easy at the beginning, but gets hard soon.”
The full-year course is an introduction to the important basics of Mandarin. The focus of the course is on China, specifically the culture, history and food. OuYang has been integrating Chinese pop culture into the course by playing pop songs from China.
OuYang also plans to celebrate Chinese holidays with her two classes. She began by celebrating the holiday called the Moon Festival in early September by bringing in moon pies, which are a popular food that is eaten during the festival. This cultural exposure helps students find a way to understand China better. Junior Adam Bransky said, “[The class] is helping me see how their culture works in comparison to ours back here, and seeing how they describe things in their language as opposed to our language.”
This new course is a great way to increase tolerance among students and escalate students’ appreciation for Chinese culture.