This blog has been repurposed from the BASIS.ed blog with a few changes, which you can find here.

When families begin learning about our Early Learning and Primary programs, they often ask us the same question: “Why do we teach Mandarin to all our students?"

Mandarin is a required part of our curriculum from Transitional Kindergarten to Grade 4 because Mandarin provides our early learners with the opportunity to engage both sides of their brains.

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.

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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.

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.

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 Curriculum 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.


One of our Mandarin Subject Expert Teachers has been reflecting on her five years teaching at BASIS Independent Fremont. “These last five years have flown by and so many memories stand out. As a teacher, I have witnessed the whole journey from when our adorable young TK scholars started learning the first introductory Mandarin character to now watching these scholars reach the end of the Primary Program! It has been amazing to see the advancement! Here is an example of one of our 4th grade students who can independently design her own Mandarin poster. I will never forget her beautiful writing of classic Chinese poem attached under the picture. For me, seeing how far the students go is extremely rewarding.”


Head of School, Dr. Ashley Leyba emphasizes the importance of our Mandarin program. "While our goal with our Primary School Mandarin program is not fluency, we have found that most of our students finish the 4th grade being able to read, write, and speak quite well! Our teachers have done a tremendous job in establishing a robust program that meets the needs of our students and sets them up for success in future language classes."

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