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Mandarin exploding in popularity among language learners

Posted at 9:05 AM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 15:19:30-04

While romance languages like French and Spanish used to be the norm, Mandarin is exploding in popularity among students and families.

As she counts the numbers in Mandarin, 8-year-old Anna McCuistion says she loves learning this new language.

She says her teacher, Seming "Summer" Liang, makes learning fun.

And Summer says Anna has a bright future.

"Oh yeah, she's a great student, learns very quickly, and tries very hard," Liang said.

Liang is originally from Hunan, China.

"It's very famous for spicy food," she said.

Liang earned an education degree in China and a business degree in the United States. She's been teaching Mandarin for nearly 10 years.

And despite how it sounds, she says learning Mandarin is not as hard as people think.

"Actually to learn Mandarin, it's not that difficult. It's fun and it's interesting, too," she says. "For example, in English, we have verb change, we have subject and verb agreement, but in Chinese, we don't have that."

Back at home, Anna goes from student to teacher.

"I've been teaching my mom and dad how to count in Mandarin," Anna said.

Her student is her dad, Dave McCuiston, who's eager to soak it all in.

"He is definitely learning," Anna said.

"I can give it a try," Dave said as he began counting in Mandarin.

"How did I do?" he asked Anna.

"Not all the way, but you got some of it right!" Anna said as dad and daughter shared a laugh.

"I'm learning, I'm learning," Dave said.

Dave hopes that Anna learning Mandarin will prepare her to be a global citizen in the future.

"Much of the supply chain that comes into the U.S. comes from China," he says. "And increasingly, much of the technology comes from China too, so in the future, having access to China, the language and understanding the culture, will be a huge benefit for Anna," Dave said.

Summer uses movies, games, and activities to engage her students. She says it's more than just learning numbers and words, it's learning Chinese culture that will open their eyes to the world.

"I feel like it's meaningful," she said. "Students or people that learn Mandarin can open a window and build a bridge between Chinese and the U.S. in culture, and I'm really happy about that."

Anna attends Desert Canyon Elementary School in Scottsdale. The school offers Mandarin classes for students.

Summer teaches outside the school system and says her classes are open to everyone. She has students as young as 18 months and as old as 70.

You can learn more about her classes here.