Dating back to 1200 BC, Mandarin is one of the oldest languages in the world. When children become fluent in Mandarin, they learn about an entirely different part of the globe along with its rich cultures and history. Today, Chinese has the most native speakers of any language in the world encompassing 1.3 billion people; over 900 million of whom speak Mandarin.
With its semanto-phonetic writing system made up of characters that include pictograms, logograms, and ideograms, Mandarin is challenging and fun to learn. It is also a tonal language; the same word can have different meanings when one of four different tones is used. A little known benefit, once students begin to learn characters in Chinese, they find that many of the same characters are used or adapted to the Japanese and Korean languages.
A global language
Learning Mandarin equips students for the world beyond HudsonWay. By some estimates, one-fifth of the globe speaks Chinese, and the population of China alone is 1.4 billion people making it the most populous country in the world.
While China has almost 300 different languages and dialects, three-quarters of the population speak Mandarin. It is the official language of Taiwan and one of four official languages of Singapore, so students that are bilingual and biliteral in Mandarin are uniquely-positioned when they enter the global community.
The Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den
A famous poem by Yuen Ren Chao, a Chinese linguist, is an example of the use of tonality in Mandarin. Chao wrote a poem of 92 characters entitled, “The Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den.” All of the characters in the poem have one sound, “shi,” but when said in different tones, they tell a story.
Shī Shì shí shī shǐ
Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.
Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den
In a stone den was a poet called Shi, who was a lion addict, and had resolved to eat ten lions.
He often went to the market to look for lions.
At ten o’clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market.
At that time, Shi had just arrived at the market.
He saw those ten lions, and using his trusty arrows, caused the ten lions to die.
He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den.
The stone den was damp. He asked his servants to wipe it.
After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions.
When he ate, he realized that these ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses.
Try to explain this matter.