The Rampage

Should Mandarin Be Offered at Ramaz?

Gabrielle Amar-Ouimet ’17

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Considered the number one leading language in the world, Mandarin is offered in many schools across the United States. It is believed that Mandarin will help students better prepare to compete in a global environment. By learning Mandarin, American students’ education might even be what brings China and the U.S. closer together. With China’s growing influence on the world’s economy and ecology, Mandarin will sooner or later become a language that most people will be expected to learn.

So why doesn’t Ramaz offer languages other than Spanish and French? It should be possible to hire teachers and find the supplies needed. Financial restrictions are the major reason for why Ramaz does not offer more than two languages. “This year, each department’s budget was cut back, and adding another language is unaffordable–regardless of what the language may be”, said Dr. Warshall.

Additionally, Ramaz already looked into the language a few years back, and even had model lessons. However, Dr. Warshall and the language department realized at the time that “the language itself (Mandarin) is the obstacle: it is extremely difficult and only three years is definitely not enough time to learn the conversational part and the writing involved.”

Dr. Warshall mentioned that in most schools, Mandarin is not offered as a foreign language, but rather as a subject with its own department. Thus, students in those specialized schools must learn Man- darin in addition to their elected foreign language. If Ramaz were to offer Mandarin, the amount of levels and classes would increase and the amount of students in each class would decrease due to the distribution and the choice of language of the students. The majority of students are choosing Spanish, as they claim that it is a personally more useful language in application to their daily lives and their environment in New York City.

Ramaz is known for its immersion in Israeli and Jewish education and perhaps having a language such as Mandarin is quite irrelevant to the Jewish environment. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, there are 2,500 Jews in China and more than 500,000 French and Spanish speaking Jews in the world. For this matter, Mandarin is not a language most students can culturally relate to. For example, Dr. Warshall said, “A few years ago the school hired a Mandarin teacher to come in to start a Mandarin Language Learning club (as opposed to only a culture club), however there were not enough students that were actually passionate to join such a club, and two weeks later, the club was canceled.”

With only slightly over 220 million people in the world speaking French, and over one billion peo- ple speaking Mandarin, choosing the languages that we learn is an extremely important decision that will impact the rest of our lives.
We are required to learn a language for three–and some of us six whole years! However, Mandarin proves to be an extremely hard language–the use of kanji’s, the accent–and the time commitment is just unattainable in three years. Therefore, offering Mandarin at Ramaz seems unrealistic due to an already challenging double curriculum, and if one truly wanted to learn Mandarin they could participate in Mandarin immersion programs outside of school.

 

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