One of the latest additions to Mandarin curriculums is what is known in the industry as Applied Mandarin. Few schools have yet adapted the concept but it is my belief that Applied Mandarin or AM will, within say 5 years, be a cornerstone in the way that private language education teach Mandarin. The aim of the concept is to make the experience of studying Mandarin much more active. All research into how the brain assimilates new information indicates that the process is action oriented. It also shows that personal relevance and usability are key components. The hope is that Applied Mandarin will combine these three facets of our cognitive senses and act as a compliment to regular classes.
So what examples are there of when relevant action, that is useful, can be harnessed for learning purposes? The key lies in natural communication. In focusing on everyday content, in an applied setting, the three cornerstones are obtained. To make it a bit more fun, and for it to act as a suitable counterweight to normal classes, the best activities are often competitions.
They start of with simple things, but they quickly get harder. Here is a list of a few advanced instances of Applied Mandarin.
Street food sell-off (Negotiation/Selling)
First a class on how to make a dish of basic Chinese street food, then a competition to see who can sell the most in one evening. Finish the night with a huge party. All proceeds go to charity. Learning objective: practice numbers, selling, polite basic conversation
Beijing Come Dine with Me (Chinese characters, written communication)
After this, students will be able to create a seriously impressive dinner for friends and family at home. Teams do their own cooking (after instruction from a Chinese chef) and then they compete in throwing the nicest dinner party. Before the party they send out menus. Learning objective: Review the LO’s from Chinese Menu Reading and Street Food Sell-off.
Produce a TV- show (Co-operation)
We enter the TV-studio that we have free access to after a planning meeting with native speakers and produce the next great You-Tube hit, travel documentary for your friends and family at home, news cast or whatever else you and your Chinese team members come up with. Voting takes place, the best production gets a great price to enjoy with their new Chinese friends. Learning objective: practice conversation and cooperation
Produce a Radio-Show (Co-operation)
See “Produce a TV-show”. Learning objective: practice conversation and cooperation.
Promote a night club event (Co-operation and Negotiation)
So you want to live in China? Here negotiation, selling and overcrowded markets are everywhere. Take your skills to the streets and promote a night club event. All proceeds go to charity. Learning objective: practice conversation and selling
Bargaining Competition (Negotiations)
As we said, just above; negotiation, selling and overcrowded markets are a great part of life here. Learn how to get what you deserve and then compete to show your skills to the world. Learning objective: Being able to discuss a price in Chinese and become more familiar with some great bargaining tricks.
Man a Market Stall (Co-operation, Selling and Negotiations)
It is one thing to be able to buy; it is completely different ball game to sell. You will be paired up with a Chinese professional that knows every single trick in the book of selling and you will go to work together… this will equip you with some serious skills for life in China and abroad as well as being truly enjoyable and a great story to tell your grandchildren. Learning objective: Practice conversation and selling from a Chinese perspective
From an egg to a Roasted Duck (Negotiations)
We give each team four eggs. They need to go out in Beijing and trade these eggs for something of greater value, say 5 apples, then find another person to trade 5 apples for 2 avocados, etc. The winner is the one that reaches the highest value of the final product by a certain time. They get a Beijing Roast Duck dinner (or a vegetarian equivalent) which is one of the nicest culinary delights around. Learning objective: to practice negotiations in Chinese.
About the Author
Rui Ming works for a Mandarin language Academy in Beijing that is a great option for those that want to learn Mandarin. If you are interested in more information about learning Mandarin in Beijing, please consult the website of Beijing Gateway Academy.