Dear 6-week Mandarin Language Intensive Students,
大家好！Hello from Andover, Mass. I’m currently finishing up my second year of teaching Chinese language and culture classes at Andover Phillips Academy. I couldn’t be more excited about this upcoming summer’s 6-week Intensive Mandarin trip with all of you! As you will soon learn when we meet in person, I am passionate about Chinese tea culture and Yunnan is a major center for Pu’er tea (普洱茶) that deserves attention from any serious teahead. Last summer I spent a few days exploring the largest tea market in Beijing (马连道茶城). I had a wonderful time drinking tea and chatting in Mandarin with the tea sellers there and I discovered that shopping for tea is a great way to break the ice with strangers and practice conversational Mandarin. I look forward to taking the next step towards learning more about teas and tea culture in Yunnan with our group this summer and also finding ways to help you improve your Mandarin by interacting with local people at each stop on our journey.
The photos in this post are of me teaching about Chinese tea culture in my classroom, and of me on a recent trip to the Chinatown of Philadelphia.
My China Story: I first became interested in learning Chinese back in high school when I watched a lot of old school kungfu flicks. I noticed that a lot of the subtitles seemed really off, and it made me want to learn what the actors were actually saying in the audio. I didn’t start studying Chinese until my senior year of college at Oberlin, but then took the plunge and moved to rural China where I taught English for two years at the Shanxi Agricultural University as an Oberlin Shansi Fellow. After returning to the US in 2009 I taught English and Chinese in various settings for a few years. I completed a masters degree in Chinese Pedagogy at the Ohio State University in 2015 and then helped to found a Bard High School Early College in Baltimore, MD where Chinese was a required subject. During the past two years at Andover Phillips Academy I have taught 2nd, 3rd, and 5th year levels of high school Chinese classes. This year I have also been a primary house counselor in a 9th grade boys dorm and have been coaching squash and cross country.
I’ve found that learning Mandarin has opened up a lot of opportunities for learning about the world, understanding my own culture through comparison and reflection, and has allowed me to travel to interesting areas of the world that would be harder to reach without the language skills. I can’t wait to meet all of you soon in LA at the end of June! Feel free to send me an email to introduce yourself or ask any questions that might be on your mind about the upcoming adventure with Dragons.
Benjamin Reitz (乔杰明)