Several students at Eastside Catholic are getting a whole new experience this year.
For the first time, the Sammamish school is offering a Mandarin program for its middle and high school students.
“It’s such a powerful language especially with China’s economy growing,” said instructor Monica Lo, who has 44 students enrolled in two Mandarin classes. They are learning everything from how to speak and write the language to the importance of Chinese holidays and traditions.
Lo said her students have caught on to the language fairly quickly — noting it’s not as hard as some perceive.
“I know the writing system can be very intimidating, but there’s really not much grammar movement, so there’s no conjugation of nouns and verbs like in Spanish and French — there’s no masculine or feminine,” she said.
Senior Eugenia Gisel said she has studied Spanish, but this is her first experience with Mandarin.
“The culture is so interwoven with the language and the characters have stories behind them and that just gives such an extra depth that some languages lack,” she said.
For freshman Frank Norwood the class drew him in because it was so different.
“It’s just a lot of fun because I’ve done Spanish the last couple of years and it was kind of too mainstream,” he said. “I thought, Mandarin, it’s very different and it could open more doors later in life, so I thought I’ll give it a try.”
Freshman Giuliana Sercu is one of the few in the class with a history with the language. She spent the last two years at Forest Ridge School in Bellevue, one of the few Eastside schools to offer Mandarin.
“It’s fun to perfect what I’ve learned before and also watch other people learn the language and help them,” she said.
Skyline High School is the only other area high school to have a Chinese language program. Eastlake offers French and Spanish, while Issaquah offers the same with the addition of Japanese and American Sign Language.
With census results showing Chinese residents to be one of the highest minority demographics in Sammamish and Issaquah, and the increased level of dealings with the United States and China, Lo said it only makes sense to have the language offered in schools.
“For every occupation it will be very useful, especially if the kids are thinking about going into engineering or international business or marketing, anything along those lines,” she said.
Mandarin teacher Monica Lo instructs one of her dragon performers.