10th Anniversary Campaign

Academic Spotlight: Mandarin ab initio

This post was contributed by Ms. Yaling Chien, ISAK’s Mandarin Chinese teacher. Ms. Chien is a native of Taiwan and holds a Master’s degree in International Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Chinese literature. She has been teaching Chinese for the past 16 years and enjoys the family atmosphere and sense of trust shared between teachers and students at ISAK.

One of the biggest challenges to learning Chinese is to master the “tones” when speaking the language. Mandarin Chinese is a tone language which means that saying words with different tones (which are like pitches in music, but not as many) will change the meaning of the words. I often encourage students to listen more, which includes not only listening to me and the audio material in class, but also listening to their friends who are Chinese speakers, and to Chinese songs and video clips that they may come across online.

One of the class assignments this semester focused on using Chinese music as a tool to practice tones. I asked my students to pick a Chinese song to sing, and this led them to want to listen to a good range of songs before deciding which one to practice. Song melodies help students relax and learn about new words and master tones naturally as they listen and sing along.

Mandarin ab initio class is designed for students with little or no prior experience speaking or studying Mandarin Chinese. By the end of Unit 3 of the syllabus, the students had learned a good range of vocabulary and grammar, yet many did not feel confident about their ability to express themselves using their newly acquired knowledge.


To overcome this, I created an activity that asked students to work collaboratively to organize vocabularies into sentences; this enabled them to realize what they had learned and how much they can already achieve, especially when working with and supporting each other. They need feel proud for and confident about themselves and the activity delivered the objective.


ISAK students are creative and actively engaged for their learning, which makes teaching and interacting with them a joy!

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Imagine… if there was an ISAK lower school!

Dear Friends of UWC ISAK,

UWC ISAK is celebrating its 10th anniversary! We are proud of where we’ve come from, and we are excited about the next decade.

At this important milestone, we are wondering – in pursuit of broadening our impact, could an ISAK Lower School be considered as one of the options and would it be feasible? A school that embraces ISAK values and vision for a better future?

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