I once asked my daughter about her greatest regret from her younger days of schooling. She said that she wished that she had taken/learned Mandarin.

Her reason?

It wasn’t anything cultural, or about the education or about socioeconomics. It was purely personal: she wanted to know what the other girls in the honors block were saying about her.

However you look at it though, learning Mandarin is a thing.

I recently read two books that have somewhat different takes on the learning of Mandarin.

In The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks, the learning of Mandarin is seen as the thing to do to make your kids competitive in the world, even if some think it’s pretentious and bougie.

You have to get him into Rolling Hills…They start Mandarin in the second grade...I nod, thinking, Mandarin in the second grade?


In Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng, the learning of Mandarin is relayed as questionable:

The news calls China our greatest long-term threat…sometimes angry parents complain if their children choose to study Mandarin, or Chinese history.

Admittedly, OMH is a dystopian novel, however, I can’t say that no one aligns with the above sentiment. There are people who are afraid of the cultures of others.

So how do you feel about the teaching/learning of Mandarin in elementary, middle or high schools? Is it a pretentious, elitist thing to give kids another accolade on their resume?

Is it a needed skill in today’s world?

Is it problematic for any number of reasons?

Have you not even considered it for any reason?


41 thoughts on “Another Language

  1. Learning another language is always a good thing for many reasons. I will always wish I knew more languages and knowing at least one Asian language could be very beneficial.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. While I don’t know that requiring any one specific language is well thought out, I do still agree with the old process of offering world languages as curriculum. They didn’t start until high school for me I think, my kids maybe middle school? I see no reason not to incorporate language practice in elementary as well if possible but is there time? Honestly when it comes to the nuts and bolts of curriculum in schools I’m glad I’m out of that process. Our school districts are dealing with massive issues right now including either merging entire schools or closing them. Language education is not going to be a priority- just like the arts are always the first classes to be dropped during budget issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My favorite college roommate was a Chinese language major who learned Mandarin. She did it to get a job in business, figuring it would give her an edge. I don’t know that it did, but that was a long time ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I would not learn a language because of business, thank the British. All international business and accounting teams speak English – it is universal. Learn becuase you want to. I spent time in Hong Kong and China (2 different languages) and Germany. Most want to practice their English on you while you want to practice your mastery of their language. Generally speaking, the Germans don’t take kindly to people who can’t speak their language correctly.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My son wanted to study Mandarin in middle school. We enrolled him in a John Hopkins online class but it turned out back then the program only worked with PCs. We had a Mac. When he went to college he was able to take a couple quarters of Mandarin. He was the one who drove the issue and wanted to learn Mandarin.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. While learning any Language is advantageous to children, Mandarin, in my opinion, is not locally vital and certainly as Important as other languages to many local communities in America.

    I live in south Florida where the Hispanic population is more than half in many areas. Now a days in S Fl , rarely dies an English only person get hired If they are not bilingual. Every nurse, every secretary at my doctors offices are all multilingual. At my oncologist’s every nurse practitioner, all the staff speak Spanish. Two of the three doctors in the office are bilingual. I’d say 60% of the patients speak Spanish. Many speak no English. That’s south Florida. So mandarin in useless but Spanish is necessary for children growing up in Florida!

    In parts of the Hollywood beach (Florida) area French Canadians bombard the beaches in the Spring. Shop owners all speak French these days, waitresses on the board walk are bilingual in French. So learning French is equally important in various areas of my state.
    I also think it behooves families to teach their ancestral languages. My grandkids are learning g Tagalog from their Filipino mom. I wish I learned Yiddish and Hebrew growing up. I know a little but wish I knew more.
    So Mandarin? It can’t hurt, but I feel other languages may be more beneficial when they are little. Each school year I received an influx of South American students because their schools are on vacation when our schools in session. Education is important to those families and they vacation in Florida and put their children in public schools. Those children pick up English easily and I’d always have them translate words for us to learn some Spanish or Portuguese. Children pick up languages easily. I think It’s a win win for kids to learn several languages.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Never considered Mandarin…but just like ‘theycallmetater’ said…I bet it would be more useful than French which still rattles around in my brain. I think any/all language acquisition is a good thing! 😉😉😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. We are very far behind too much of the rest of the world as far as education. Math and reading are only two examples, but current ones. Language has been a shortcoming for years if not decades. We have a lot of catching up to there but, unfortunately, one of the languages we really need to learn is English. Proper English.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think young children have a facility for learning languages that fades as we age. I consider knowing some Spanish to be vital. I’ve tried learning German – much more difficult. I don’t object to whatever language is taught – it is useful. Especially if you work in the tourism industry, politics, or international affairs. If you travel widely, people appreciate when you at least make an effort to speak the language. My experience in Germany is that if you don’t try, they will ignore you. If you do try and mangle it, they are as forgiving as anyone else and will try to help you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Learning a second language when you are young is easier, and some claim it actually alters brain development making it easier to learn additional languages. I do know it is hard to predict which languages you will need later in life. I had four years of French and Latin in high school. Then I had a French minor in college: I could read and write about 18th century French literature, but couldn’t carry on a conversation. I lived much of my adult life in NM which is officially a bilingual state and 7 years in Mexico. Ask me how that French worked out for me in Mexico.🤣

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Why specifically mandarin?
    Don’t schools teach languages any more?

    When I was in junior high, I took 3 years of Spanish because language was required. In high school, I took 4 years if German.

    I admit, I still can muddle my way through more Spanish than any German at all. It’s a matter of usefulness.

    As a horse person, barns often employee Hispanic caretakers, so knowing some Spanish can be helpful.

    I don’t remember a word of German because it wasn’t useful to know. I can’t imagine how specifically useful it would be to know Mandarin? I feel like without using it and continuing to practice it, you would just forget.

    That said, I have seen many job listings especially in technology fields that do require Mandarin as a spoken language. So maybe if it’s a career need, then yes.

    Currently I am learning French, which I guess is officially my 4th language I can speak although not really sure I can honestly count German since I don’t remember any of my lessons from school.

    I am going to France in a few weeks and have been learning for 2 years since we booked the trip. Hopefully I can muddle through!

    I enjoy learning French but I also worry that after my trip, I’ll just forget it all. We know we want to make a return trip to France in the future. I guess I’ll try to keep studying for the next X years until we can go back.

    I do deal with people in France for my work, so while it could be useful, they all also speak perfect English.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. All of the above. Assuming you’re in the U.S., Mandarin just isn’t necessarily a needed or popular language, except for maybe international based jobs that deal with China all the time.

        So why does your daughter want to learn specifically Mandarin? I don’t know if it’s suddenly the thing to do, but in some areas it might be necessary for work.

        I would say in most places in America, learning Spanish is going to be more outright useful. I don’t think we will see a boom of learning Mandarin any time soon and I can’t imagine schools teaching it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, in America, in certain areas it’s the thing to do, because the assumption is business will be china centric. It’s been like this for awhile. I have friends whose kids have been learning Mandarin in school since kindergarten. For my daughter, in her NYC public middle school she was in honors math/science. That block was 95 % asian, almost all Chinese, with many of the kids having emigrated here. For her, it was knowing what the other kids were saying about her.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That makes sense then!
        So…. Is she learning it? I’m learning French on Duolingo for free. Maybe she should see if Mandarin is on there, though it will be a long time before she’s fluent enough to understand gossip lol.

        Learning a language is great!

        I think the real issue here is that your daughter feels people are talking about her and she needs to learn a whole new Language just to understand what they’re saying.

        That’s definitely an issue. She needs to learn things to benefit herself, not because she wastes effort caring if/what students may or may not be saying about her when most likely once she moves on, she’ll never see or hear from those people again .

        Life is full of people who talk about you. The trick is learning not to give a shit.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. To be fair she was 12 when she said that, and it was more of a sarcastic aside as to how people are crappy. She’s moved on past that and speaks French

        Liked by 1 person

  12. The tweenager and teenager years, whether in public schools or private, are breeding grounds for bullying, cliques, and bad behavior. My kids suffered through it and now it’s my grandkids’ turn. At this age, children are very sensitive to feeling hurt and sensitive to what it takes to hurt someone who is vulnerable. It is sad that your daughter would even wonder in passing what other kids might be saying about her. My guess is she outperformed all of them in academics and in kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well…I’m middle kids are horrible to one another. I don’t think my daughter was really affected by this…it’s more a comment on society in general and how everyone can be made to feel bad. I’ll leave it at that

      Liked by 1 person

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