Mandarin Scholars at Falmouth Academy is off to a strong start. What began as a pilot program after winter break last year has matured into one of Falmouth Academy’s newest student clubs with a small but consistent membership. Junior Dimple Zhu, an International student from Shanghai who came to Falmouth Academy last year, started the club as a way of increasing cultural literacy. Mandarin Scholars meet Mondays after school for 45 minutes with Dimple, who holds a professional certification for Mandarin instruction, as the teacher. When asked why she started the club Dimple replied, “The world is getting smaller and it is important that we understand each other better. Sharing my culture and language supports that.” She also said that it was a way for her, as a transfer student, to meet more people and improve her teaching and English skills.
Dimple teaches Mandarin through the exploration of traditional folk tales, history, and cultural celebrations as a way to weave together both aims of the club, language acquisition and cultural literacy. For example, she began with a lesson about Cangjie (仓颉), the creator of words and Nu Wa (女娲), the creator of humans, both well-known characters from Chinese folklore, as a way of introducing the history of language. She also plans to explore humorous stereotypes and Chinese holidays as a way to gently introduce a broader conversation about cultural diversity.
“English and Mandarin are very different as are American and Chinese culture,” says Dimple. “Pronunciation, syntax, colloquialisms, as well as cultural differences, make this an ideal opportunity to build a bridge, and I see language as the anchor. ”