How Learning Mandarin Is Changing The Hearts, Minds, And Brains Of Kids
Will we all be speaking Mandarin by 2050?
Rena was six when she first started at Yu Ming Charter School in Oakland. She knew only a few words of Mandarin. “I thought it was weird that they [the teachers] were talking and I didn’t really understand,” she says. “I didn’t realize that it would sound so different and look so different. A lot of times, other kids would translate for me.” Now, in fifth grade, Rena’s Mandarin is crisp and clean.
Rena is having a sleepover at Rosa and Sonia’s house in the Berkeley Hills, all dark wood and sweeping vistas. You can see the Marin Headlands and the San Francisco skyline. The girls all attend Yu Ming together — Rosa is in fifth grade, like Rena, and Sonia is in third. Their parents, Cynthia Li and David Hochschild, are actually longtime friends of my wife’s. They’ve invited me over so I can learn more about immersion schools for a piece I’m writing. (Full disclosure: I also have a slightly personal interest. My wife is Chinese, and as we prepare to start a family of our own, this kind of thing is on our minds.)
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