Bay’s Mandarin Class

The Mandarin Language Program at Bay is highlighted in Sing Tao Daily.

An article titled, Bay School Chinese language classes on the road to success. Chinese is no longer difficult to learn., was published by Sing Tao Daily, the second largest newspaper in Hong Kong with nationwide circulation in the US, about the Chinese language program here at Bay. Click here to read the full article online on (Chinese language)

Dennis Yang, one of the Chinese language teachers at Bay, and his class were highlighted in the article. Dennis said, “It was an excellent article, praising how our program is unique in its teaching methodology, learning through fun, or edutainment in other words.” Dennis’ class uses the game show Jeopardy as a learning platform as well as the card game, Three Kingdoms, to make learning fun and entertaining.

Student Ben Gerstein recited a Chinese poem to the reporter and was praised for his work. He recited “Thoughts in the Quiet Evening.” Rina Castillo, Zev Newman, and Kathryn Hobart were featured in the photos, playing Jeopardy, as well.

Dennis Yang, Mandarin Language Teacher
Dennis Yang, Mandarin Language Teacher

Here is the English translation of the article by Dennis Yang:

The Bay School’s Mandarin Class leads the way to success. Combining education with fun, teacher proves Mandarin is no longer hard to learn.

Situated in the historic Presidio National park is The Bay School, a private high school. First year Mandarin student Ben Gerstein came to Dennis Yang’s classroom after school and recited the ancient poet Li Bo’s most famous work, Thoughts in the Quiet Evening. After seeking correction from Mr. Yang, Ben also recited the Chinese Character Stroke Order Rhyme. During class, Mandarin 3 students split into groups to compete with each other, determined to get the highest score in Chinese Jeopardy for their own group.

No matter the ethnicity of the students, they are all very passionate about learning Chinese. This passion for Chinese stems not only from their parents’ encouragement and the students’ own desire to learn but also from the fact that Dennis Yang uses all his creative juices to create and present a lively and varied approach to learning Chinese. This variety of lively and engaging teaching methods has made the very challenging Chinese language much easier and more fun to learn for both non-Chinese students and Chinese students alike.

Being an American Born Chinese (ABC), Dennis Yang grew up like many other ABC children, going to Chinese school on the weekends. Dennis almost gave up on learning Chinese in his junior year of Chinese High School. Fortunately in his senior year of Chinese school, he had a new Chinese teacher that engaged and encouraged him to continue learning Chinese. Dennis Yang went on to get his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Chinese language and literature. He has taught Mandarin at Lowell High School, created and taught the Mandarin program at the Urban School, and after returning from a year in Hong Kong, has been teaching Mandarin at the Bay School.

As China continues to grow economically, learning Chinese becomes a much more practical trend. The problem, though, is that the Chinese language and English language do not share anything in common. Mandarin 3 student Rina Castillo says that the most difficult part of learning Chinese is remembering how to write all the different characters. Transfer student Zev Newman says that at his old high school, they learned Chinese strictly on the computer and hardly hand-wrote characters. After coming to Dennis Yang’s class and doing an extensive amount of handwriting, Zev remembers many more characters than before. Today in class, Zev and his classmates split into groups to do an interactive weather report in fluent Mandarin.

At the Bay School, besides teaching the Pinyin Romanization system to help with tones and pronunciation, and to be equipped to search online Chinese dictionaries, Dennis Yang also understands from his own experiences the need to provide students with encouragement and to engage and elevate their interest in learning the language, so that they do not feel that learning these block characters is boring.

Just as Dennis’ former Chinese teacher showed through his teaching methods, Dennis also realizes that ancient Chinese language, culture, and history can be presented in a fresh and contemporary manner through pop music. As an avid fan of music and singing, Dennis Yang loves to incorporate popular and fun elements that students can relate to, helping them to become more engaged in the learning of Chinese language, culture, history, customs, geography, etc.

For example, the recent movie The Green Hornet provided Dennis Yang with the perfect opportunity to introduce to his students one of Asia’s biggest pop stars, Jay Chou. Taking this opportunity, Dennis taught his students to sing one of Jay Chou’s songs. As they sang, they learned many new words. The popularity of the recent film franchise Ip Man, which the students love, has provided Dennis Yang the platform to teach recent Chinese history along with Chinese language. Students in his class were able to write and perform their own Ip Man skit, incorporating the material they had learned in class, to create an extremely hilarious play. In addition, movies such as Hero, The Battle of Red Cliff, and the extremely popular role-playing card game Three Kingdoms Attack! have allowed Dennis Yang to introduce the long and complicated history of ancient China, especially the Three Kingdoms period, in a fun and engaging manner.

Dennis Yang also uses the popular game show Jeopardy as part of his pedagogical repertoire. In Dennis Yang’s Chinese Jeopardy, students split into groups and compete to correctly write a range of Chinese characters from their various lessons, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. They also compete to write sentences using their grammar points. Students zealously compete and remember more characters in the process.

In America, Chinese class is not solely about learning the Chinese language. Teachers are also responsible for introducing Chinese history, culture, and customs. Dennis Yang hopes that through his “edutainment” methods, students will have a comprehensive understanding of the Chinese language and culture, providing them the encouragement and interest to study Chinese beyond high school.

Congrats to the excellent Chinese language program here at Bay! If you have any questions about it, please contact us.