New Chinese class puts emphasis on conversation

by Matt Koehler ‘15

As students return to campus after summer vacation, new policies and programs at Saint Ignatius have them talking. Discussions about the new BYOT policy and drug testing program can be heard all over school, but one new there’s one new class that students have given much notice to: the Chinese program.

Over the past few years, interest had been growing within the administration to implement a Mandarin Chinese program here at school.

Thanks to a very generous donation last year from Larry Dolan ‘50, owner of the Cleveland Indians, their plans were able to be realized. The school hired Mrs. Quihui Li, who had taught English at a university in Beijing, China, her home country, and, after moving to America ten years ago, most recently taught Mandarin at Shaker Heights High School.

With the class only open to juniors and seniors as an elective, the course has started slowly. “In order to do it right, we wanted to start at the elective level slowly, to create an interest base, so we could expand the program if it became popular or viable,” said Principal Bradesca. Right now, seventeen students are enrolled in the course, with an average class size of about four or five students, something that Mrs. Li and the students are really taking advantage of, optimizing student-teacher interaction. “The class size is really small, which is really nice,” says Tony Edwards ‘15, a student in the class. “There are only six kids in my class, which is helpful.” Mrs. Li agreed, continuing, “I think we take advantage of the small class. We have much fewer students, so everybody gets a chance to practice during class, many times, so we learn a lot.”

While Mandarin is ver y dif ferent from the Romance languages taught at Ignatius, the class is normal, as students learn basic material such as counting to one hundred, reading a calendar, telling time, etc. However, the language itself is obviously ver y dif ferent from Latin, Spanish, and French, lacking numerous conjugations and having characters instead. “Each language has its own advantage,” says Mrs. Li, “and I think many people think learning Chinese is very difficult, but it is not.” But the class itself isn’t extremely easy, either: “It’s not easy,” says Edwards, “but it’s worthwhile, and Mrs. Li teaches it in a way that you want to work hard.”

While the class is going well so far, at this point, the class will remain open only to juniors and seniors next year, still as an elective only. Along with Mandarin I being offered, juniors who take Chinese this year will be able to take Mandarin II, a course that Mrs. Li is currently creating, next year. “So far it’s going great,” says Principal Bradesca, “and if the course becomes popular enough, freshmen and sophomores might be able to take it as well.”