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Summer Institute in Chinese provides rare opportunity to learn Mandarin

While many high schoolers spend their summers by the pool or working in temporary jobs, about 50 seize the opportunity to learn Mandarin at Queens.

The two-week Summer Institute in Chinese, which just completed its second year, uses grant money to help fill local gaps in the instruction in Eastern languages. Participants learn about Mandarin language and culture from program instructors who are all native speakers and are teachers at local schools.

In addition to classroom instruction in the Mandarin dialect, participants try Chinese cooking, race dragon boats on Lake Norman, and learn Chinese dances and martial arts. Through it all, they speak as much Mandarin as possible.

Few public schools are able to offer Mandarin classes, said Dr. Alexa Royden, assistant professor of political science at Queens.  There just aren't enough speakers of the dialect to teach them and limited money for language programs. Yet there's more demand for Mandarin speakers because of increased business and other relations between China and America.

With public school budgets strapped because of the sagging economy while the business climate becomes more global, seats for the few language programs that exist are in high demand. At Queens participants pay a nominal $50 fee to enjoy the program.

Auditors of the institute have said that Queens adds a unique element to its instruction:  university students help tutor participants and also lead cultural learning activities. The experience also helps them build their Mandarin-language knowledge and confidence in using the language.

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