FORT MILL --
Say ni hao to Fort Mills newest language school.
Fort Mill residents Bin and JJ Chen recently opened Simply Mandarin Academy in the Fort Mill-Tega Cay Business Center on Hwy. 160.
The language we teach is Mandarin Chinese. There are hundreds of dialects in China. Mandarin is the only official language, JJ explains.
Why learn Mandarin? With more than one billion speakers, it is the most commonly spoken language in the world and one of six official languages of the United Nations. Since China is the worlds fastest growing economy and the United States biggest trading partner, speaking Mandarin as a second language is an increasingly valuable skill, people in industry say.
The Chens have heard lots of reasons.
China is developing. People are looking for different opportunities in China. More parents are coming in to have their children learn Chinese at a very young age, JJ says.
The way of writing attracts some people, and the history of itpeople are curious, Bin adds.
Tega Cay resident Katie Shire, mom of 10 year-old Nate and Lizzie, 7, agrees. Because foreign languages are not typically offered in elementary school, the Shires decided to schedule private language lessons for their children.
We chose Chinese because its a widely spoken language and theres a lot of opportunity, Katie said. We had talked about learning at an immersion camp, but we brought the kids here. Theyve been so nice. Were going to continue on and start another session in July.
In class, Nate and Lizzie practice speaking and listening in Chinese, and they learn to recognize and write different characters. JJ keeps classes small to ensure the quality of each students experience. Projects like making traditional Chinese dumplings and practicing Chinese greetings on family and friends introduce students to Chinese culture and keep new skills fresh between classes.
JJ, who has a masters degree in law from Beijing University, moved to Fort Mill from southern China in 2008 when she and Bin started their family. She is now a teacher, small business owner, and full-time mom of two daughters.
It was very hard at the beginning, she says.
Now more kids know me. They say, Thats Ms. JJ, my Chinese teacher! It makes me very happy.
Simply Mandarin Academy offers Mandarin Chinese classes for children and adults. Courses include Chinese as a second language, Chinese as a heritage language, and Business Chinese for students of all levels.