Franceska Barnard, Lower V Alpha, writes about the first session of the St Augustine’s Priory Mandarin Club…
‘On Thursday 11th September, girls from across the senior school were able to attend the first session of Mandarin Club. Mandarin is spoken by over 1 billion people around the world and the girls who attended the session were able to see and experience the language for the first time. This first session was a taster session, where we were able to practise writing Chinese characters and ask questions about the club. Miss Eng, who led the club, gave a presentation on what the club would consist of: writing, speaking and culture. It was clear to see that Mandarin was not like any language we had met in the classroom for it is a tonal language, meaning that the way a word or syllable is pronounced can change the meaning. Another aspect that was new to many of us was that the characters are based on the pictures they represent and we were set the challenge of trying to figure out the meaning of the character by what it looked like. Some were easier than others but the task was interesting and different to what we were used to when beginning to learn a new language. We were assured throughout the session that with time, practice and effort it would become easier to understand Mandarin.
Something many of us are looking forward to is the cultural side of the club. Throughout the year there are festivals celebrated in the Chinese culture and we were fortunate enough to experience one in our first session. The Mid – Autumn Festival took place earlier in the week, on 8th September, and it is the festival of thanksgiving and harvest. Miss Eng brought us “moon cakes” and displayed them with other cultural items and it was brilliant to be able to see how the festival would have been celebrated. The rest of the session consisted of practising the four different tones of speaking and learning to correctly draw the characters: lines to be drawn top to bottom and left to right.
What many of us took from the session is that although Mandarin will not be an easy language to learn, those who persevere with it will not only get to experience a whole new culture, but it will also open up opportunities they could never have had before. We would like to thank Miss Eng for founding the club and we look forward to future sessions.’
Thank you to Jeeba Marri, Lower VI, and Miss Eng, Teacher of Art and Mandarin, for the photographs of the Chinese characters and of the first session of Mandarin club.