Language is the medium we humans use to communicate with each other anywhere on the planet. Today, there are almost 6500 languages spoken worldwide with most languages having their own clear and individualistic defining features.
In the past, languages had geographical barriers with a particular language being spoken only in specific geographical area. With developments and advancements, barriers to language are disappearing. Those that remain, are being cleared, thanks to technology!.
Mandarin is the world’s preferred Chinese language and one of the reasons for its acceptance has been the blistering rate in which China as an economy has been growing. People are thus inclined towards learning Mandarin due to apparent benefits that come from learning the language of a global economic powerhouse.
Silk Mandarin, Shanghai, is one of the most innovative language schools for Mandarin which The Knowledge Review has come across. Founded in the year 2015 in Shanghai, it currently has two branches with the second being located in Suzhou which came about in the year 2018.
Both the centers remain well-equipped and are situated in the centre of the city with modern amenities like shops, restaurants and banks close by. Classrooms at Silk Mandarin are equipped with interactive smart boards to teach Chinese with the help of their in-house developed teaching techniques. Besides the essentials to good teaching and learning, the school provides a lounge where students can meet and relax during breaks.
Tjibbe van Ellen and Liwen Gong are the Founders of Silk Mandarin. Tjibbe, a Dutch engineer attempted to learn Mandarin in Shanghai when he realized the huge difference in the manner of teaching between the Chinese and the western world.
“The apparently simple question ‘what is the logic of the Chinese language, how does this language work?’ could not be answered. Instead of offering comprehension, rules were offered, and then even more rules,” Tjibbe expresses.
Hence to merge the difference, he formed a bridge for those interested in learning Mandarin. Silk Mandarin thus came into being. What was originally a two-founders enterprise, is today a successful company with 25 full time working teachers and 350 students.
The mission of the school is to assist in expanding the outreach of Mandarin and its innate beauty, and in doing so, deliver the highest quality of teaching to its students, regardless of their background or their age. With the intent of proving the best teaching, the school has been appointing the best teachers. That besides, the school has developed a unique teaching concept that is yielding results beyond expectation.
For the benefits of the students, the school has aligned its curricula with the official standardized tests used to determine the fluency of non-native Chinese speakers. HSK is thus for conversational Chinese and BCT for business Chinese.
These methodologies remain the best means of assessing a person’s proficiency in Chinese, used extensively as they are in businesses and in the field of education particularly in universities. “Since January 2017 HSK is also being used by the Chinese Government to assess the eligibility for a Business Visa,” says Tjibbe.
- 2 IN 1
As the name suggests, the course provides double benefits to its students. In the first instance, students get to learn conversational Chinese, and secondly (for those who want it), the option of appearing for HSK exams at the same time. Using this curriculum, Silk Mandarin provides its students a practical and proficient course that quickly improves conversational Chinese while at the same time measures their proficiency levels against established scales. This course thus obviates the need to prepare separately for HSK exams and helps students save time and money.
- 2 PLUS 1
2 PLUS 1, focuses mainly on teaching Business Chinese/BCT with the basic curriculum being the same as in “2 IN 1”. In addition, it also teaches vocabulary, structures and phrases in different Business settings. This course provides a great insight into Chinese business culture, manners and etiquette, which is of paramount importance when doing business in China.
To accommodate the wishes and needs of students, both the curricula can be followed using different courses with the intensive courses best suited for students wanting a deep knowledge of Mandarin in all its aspects including listening, speaking, reading and writing within a short span.
For those short of time, the school provides part-time courses which can be taken according to one’s convenience like on weekdays, over weekends or in the evenings. Tjibbe says, “Our Private Chinese Lessons account for the utmost flexible and personalized lessons tailored as they are to students’ personal schedules and needs. Our Real-Life Online Course makes students feel like they are actually in a classroom together with the teacher, and in the case of a group class, also together with their classmates.”
One of the teachers at Silk Mandarin, David Wang came up with a unique methodology to solving problems faced by the students. Called the “Slow Motion Technique”, it is meant to shows the logic behind understanding Mandarin and more importantly, teaches the student Mandarin with just one rule instead of dozens which would otherwise confuse students.
The Silk Mandarin team has also come up with a “Structure Map” which is an overview explaining the entire Chinese grammar on just one page. Another interesting technique is the “Magical Talking Cards” which includes a set of 600 flashcards with a special pen that makes the card talk when touched. It can also be used to record the student’s speech which makes learning easier for students and is the perfect tool to practice reading, listening and speaking.
“As shown above, the success story of Silk Mandarin is not the story of one person but of an entire team whose goal it remains to make students from all around the world learn this beautiful language fast and with fun. The success of Silk Mandarin is based on teamwork and a genuine interest in our student’s goals and achievements,” says Tjibbe.
Going an Extra Mile
The most important part when learning a language, specifically one like Mandarin is to make students practice it in real life. It is important that the students take the process of learning outside the school for which the school has specifically designed several activities. One of them is the “Chinese Corner” where students are taken to a specific location where they are allowed to interact with the locals such as those in grocery shops or in the historical part of the city. This helps the students practice and communicate with the local Chinese given that many students come all the way to China to learn the language and discover China from within.
“That’s why alongside our courses and language-oriented activities we organise cultural activities on Business & Etiquette, Life & Beliefs, Culture & History and Chinese arts & Festivals, outdoor activities and excursions,” Tjibbe expresses.