Mandarin Chinese at Inly: Global Citizenship from the Ground Up

It’s time for Tuesday’s ASP (After School Program) Mandarin class, and a dozen Kindergarten and Lower Elementary students sit in a circle, eager to continue the song they’d learned the week before: Tour, Jianbang, Xi, Jiaozhi! (a.k.a. “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes!”).

Teacher Ling Tang leads the song, introducing and repeating Mandarin terms for body parts at each round. Then each student takes a turn leading the group, giving commands in Chinese as classmates repeat the words, touching their necks, mouths, ears, hair, even eyebrows—in gestures both serious and silly.

Next Ling gets out her “magic bag” and pulls out various items and creatures, one by one. “Who can remember the name of this one?” she asks, pulling out a pumpkin. “Oh, oh, I know it in Spanish!! Calabaza?” offers one boy. “No, Nangua!” calls another. “That’s right!” says Ling. “Nan-gua.” And all the students now chime in, repeating the word five times, as they’re accustomed to do.

More friends, old and new, are pulled from the magic bag, one by one: Hei mao (black cat), she (snake), zhizhu (spider), xiongmao (panda), long (dragon) and bianfu (bat). Ling lines them up on the floor, and then the students concentrate hard as they slowly name each one in the line.

Ling holds up the bat at the end and explains that it’s a symbol of good luck in China. “Bat is called bian-fu – and fu is the Chinese word for blessing. The bat is very, very lucky.” And then Ling announces a special activity for next week’s class: traditional Chinese paper cutting with bats!

“Yay!” says a first-grader. “Yay!” echoes her friend. And they’re off and running…

Mandarin Chinese Programs at Inly

  • Chinese is first offered in the Discovery program, an extended afternoon enrichment program for 3- and 4-year-olds.
  • In Kindergarten (the third year of Children’s House), Chinese is part of the regular curriculum.
  • The ASP (After School Program) offers classes in Chinese for students in Kindergarten and up. All ASP classes are free of charge.

Why start learning a second language so young?
At Inly, fostering global citizenship is a core part of our mission. In addition to heightening cultural awareness, our World Languages program is designed to take advantage of children’s “sensitive periods” of cognitive development. Children who begin learning Mandarin and Spanish at the preschool and elementary level will be especially facile and well prepared for a global economy that’s bringing Asia, the U.S. and Latin America closer together than ever before.

Lyrics to “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in Mandarin Pinyin:
Tour, jianbang, xi, jiaozhi, (Head, shoulders, knees, toes)
Xi, jiaozhi, xi, jiaozhi, (Knees, toes, knees, toes)
Tour, jianbang, xi, jiaozhi, (Head, shoulders, knees, toes)
Yan, er, bi han kou. (Eyes, ears, nose and mouth)
Tour, jianbang, xi, jiaozhi, (Head, shoulders, knees, toes)

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