When families learn about our Primary Program (Grades 2 - 4), they often ask us the same question: “Why do we teach Mandarin to students?”
Mandarin is a required part of the BASIS Curriculum in Grades 2 - 4 because Mandarin provides our early learners with several core development opportunities. Mandarin’s use of written characters for each word provides students with visual and artistic stimulation. How to read and write characters also follows logical patterns that help develop critical thinking and analytical skills.
Introducing Mandarin at an early age promotes the development of interdisciplinary thought and analysis, enabling the students to draw connections between their lessons from many of their subjects such as math, science, art, and even English. The Co-Founders and visionaries behind the BASIS Curriculum intentionally crafted our program for Primary, Middle, and High School to build upon the other and stretch critical thinking and problem solving skills. The inclusion of Mandarin in our Primary Program is just one example of our pedagogical approach.
Mandarin causes simultaneous usage of both the left and right portions of the brain. Mandarin is a tonal language. This means that the same word can have multiple different meanings depending on the tone. Students of the language must attend to both the basic sound as well as the tone in order to understand a word.
The difference in brain activity between Mandarin and English speakers is well documented in scientific research. Most recently, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America published a study that outlined the specific differences in brain activity between speakers of tonal and non-tonal languages.
“Mandarin is very helpful for our youngest students because this World Language helps develop different parts of their brain.” says Ms. Wen Yang, Curriculum Support Specialist for BASIS Curriculum Schools. “Mandarin also helps students understand other languages and cultures and provides a global perspective. Learning at an early age develops different ways of thinking about things based on exposure to different cultures and languages.”
The results demonstrated that while speech processing is largely carried out in the “common left hemisphere,” Mandarin speakers activate an additional sector of their brain called the “right anterior temporal cortex,” which is crucial in recognizing differences in tone. Learning to speak a tonal language means that one must exercise this connection between the left and right hemispheres of the brain in order to improve their tonal comprehension abilities.
This also ties directly into our literacy curriculum that we use in the Primary years, as the focus is on phonemic awareness and developing natural decoding skills that allow students to naturally problem solve as they continue to practice reading.
“This is very similar to what I saw in Thailand,” said Head of School, Ms. Elizabeth Thies. “Thai is also a tonal language and therefore our students were able to make connections more fluidly when it came to identifying specific sounds in the different phonograms and reinforcing the understanding that these sounds combined to form specific words.”
The learning that takes place within the structure of these languages allows our students to connect their learning in more meaningful ways.
Additionally, Mandarin’s use of written characters for each word rather than an alphabet provides students with visual and artistic stimulation. Introducing Mandarin at an early age promotes the development of interdisciplinary thought and analysis, enabling the students to draw connections between their lessons from different subjects.
Mandarin instruction at BASIS Independent Schools employs a variety of teaching techniques for accessing different styles of learning. For example, because tone is so important when speaking Mandarin, students often use music and song to practice their speaking skills.
Through a variety of teaching methods and instructional media, students rapidly improve their conversational Mandarin abilities.
The Power of a Network of Top Performing Schools
BASIS Independent Schools includes five campuses across the United States including in Silicon Valley, New York City, and the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area.
Ms. Yang expresses, “What I love the most is that we are a network with so many brilliant teachers. As a former Mandarin Subject Advisor, we have the opportunity for teachers to collaborate together and our curriculum is constantly improving because of it. We gather information from each campus from each teacher, and make each subject better and better, year by year. For our Subject Expert Teachers, this is very important as we learn from teaching our students, and experiences are gathered. This is important for us to continuously improve the BASIS Curriculum.”
The World Language Sequence at BASIS Independent Schools
World Language is a requirement in every grade level from our youngest grades to high school. Below is a summary of our World Language sequence.
- Mandarin is required in Grades 2 - 4.
- In Grades 5 - 6, Latin is required. Latin helps prepare students for our interdisciplinary science curriculum in Grades 6 - 8 and beyond, and develops foundational English language skills.
- Beginning in Grade 7, students can select a World Language from either French, Latin, Mandarin, or Spanish. Students can and are prepared to take an AP World Language Course and go beyond in Grade 12 by taking a Capstone World Language class.
BASIS Independent Bellevue is a private school opening fall 2022. We will open with Grades 2 - 7 to start and add a grade level each school year as we expand to a full middle and high school (Grades 5 - 12). We are now accepting applications for Grades 2 - 7 for fall 2022.
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