FHSD Introduces Mandarin Chinese to FHN Students


By David Bodden

Every weekday, new Mandarin Chinese teacher Wan-Tzu Chen comes to FHN for one hour to teach Mandarin Chinese I. Chen teaches in room 222 for first hour and then goes and teaches at three other schools in the district for the rest of the day.

“I knew it was the most spoken language and I want to go into international business so I knew it would be really helpful,” Jamie Sneed, a sophomore currently enrolled in Mandarin Chinese I, said.

A fact unknown to many, Mandarin Chinese is actually the number one most spoken language in the world. It is a little different than the other three foreign languages offered at FHN: French, Spanish and German. Mandarin Chinese uses a different alphabet and is known as a tonal language, which means that the tone a person says a word in could completely change the word. Chen understands how these things are confusing, but believes that after a certain point, students will feel like it’s not too hard.

“I only encourage them to spend like 15 minutes a day after school to review what they learned in the class, and preview the lesson as well,” Chen said. “That’s it. I don’t ask them to spend a lot of time doing anything. Just 15 minutes a day should be enough.”

The class is similar in many ways to any foreign language class. According to Sneed, the students are just learning the basics. She says they’ve learned the alphabet, the numbers, the four different tones and the symbols. As with learning any new language, or even in any high school class, it can be challenging, but Sneed says that she would recommend it to other students so far and enjoys the new class. For her, the benefits of knowing such an useful business language outweigh the challenges.

“As we prepare students for career and college readiness, one of the business languages that was emerging was Mandarin Chinese,” Chris Greiner, FHSD Director of Student Learning said about the class. “So, in order for many new graduates to be prepared for being competitive in the international market, a language like Mandarin Chinese is becoming more prevalent.”

Mandarin Chinese is becoming more useful for those interested in global business, like Sneed. Currently, Mandarin I is offered at all three high schools and at Bryan Middle School. It is the intention of the district to offer Mandarin II next year and eventually all five classes at FHSD in the coming years if students continue enrolling.

“Learning a language is not just about the language itself,” Chen said. “It is also about the cultural stuff. So, sometimes students just feel so fascinated by the cultural stuff, so this year I am enjoying the most [of all of my years teaching.]”