Mandarin Chinese to be offered in 2020-21

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photo by Bryson Turner

Zhenzhen Zhang uses one of her Mandarin calligraphy sets. She will buy a class set for her students to use next year in her Mandarin class.

Hired shortly before the school year began, geometry teacher Zhenzhen Zhang did not have enough time to apply to teach a Chinese course for the school year. This fall, she’s fixing that.

Mandarin Chinese will join Spanish, French, German and American Sign Language to become the fifth world language program offered on campus.

After moving from Hengshui, China to Florida in 2010, and becoming a math teacher at Freedom High School in 2015, many of her students were drawn to the numerous Chinese objects that decorated her room. This year, one can find a calligraphy set, a wooden box hand-made by her father and several pieces of paper currency, all depicting Mao Zedong.

“I felt like I could be the key to show people the culture of China or the language,” Zhang said.

The new class has already drawn student interest, including the Asian-American population on campus, which represents 6.69 percent of the student body.

Freshman Alexa Young, who was adopted as an infant from Lianjiang, China, sees the class as an opportunity to associate with her birth heritage.

“It’s really important to me to really connect with my culture and to rediscover who I am,” Young said.

Meanwhile, junior Jiyou Kim, whose family hails from South Korea, sees the course as a chance to connect more with friends abroad.

“Almost all schools in Korea have Chinese classes,” Kim said. “My friends in Korea learned Chinese a little bit. I just wanted to learn the same thing as them.”

While some are ready to sign up for the new language, others, like sophomore Ericka Keast, are waiting until senior year to complete the foreign language tracks they have already started.

“I’ve always been interested in the language and I needed another elective to fill that spot after I’m done with Spanish,” Keast said.

Zhang hopes that the introduction of her native language will convince students to branch out from their more typical cultural experiences.

“Everybody thinks Chinese is hard to learn,” Zhang said. “It’s just different.”

Chinese I, Chinese II, and AP Chinese will be offered for the 2020-2021 school year.

Zhang hopes to one day organize a summer trip to China for her students.

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