How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
Looking back from today, I still feel lucky that I have chosen Silk Mandarin to start my career.
Silk Mandarin creates the excellent environment to consolidate and develop my professional skills. After graduating with my major in Chinese linguistics, I became a Mandarin teacher at Silk Mandarin. During the last few years, I’ve been teaching over 2,500 hours of a wide variety of Chinese courses to students from all over the world, all with their different cultural backgrounds. I have felt that I became more and more confident with teaching. Now, being faced with many different types of Mandarin students, I am able to always find an efficient way to teach the content and facilitate their practice, therefore quickly gaining my students’ trust.
Besides my own teaching practice, I also learned a lot from the other full-time teachers in the Silk Mandarin team. Sharing the same common team goal "to find the best Mandarin teaching methodology”, we exchange our ideas to unify and develop our learning methods, learning tools and materials. A lot of students have already benefited from these materials and products which have helped to speed up their Mandarin learning.
In addition, working at Silk Mandarin has been so enriching for me, because of the daily intercultural communication I have with my students. At Silk Mandarin, I can talk with people from all over the world, introducing to them our Chinese culture and at the same time learn so much from my students as they tell me so much about their country and culture. These lovely daily talks and encounters have broadened my horizons enormously and shared my way of thinking. I will benefit from this for the rest of my life!
Silk Mandarin pays close attention to mine, and my colleagues’, development. In addition, coming up with good ideas and showing initiative is highly encouraged.
After 2 and a half years of full-time teaching, I have been given the opportunity to work as a teaching supervisor, being in charge of managing all the educational issues in this language institute. It’s definitely a big challenge for me, as before I had never viewed my job from any perspective other than teaching. Recently I have learned a lot, also because of the support from my boss and my team members. I believe me improving on management and supervision will eventually improve the quality of our courses and service for our students.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
One of the most exciting parts of being a Mandarin teacher is listening to all kinds of experiences and adventures they had in China. I recently heard an amazing story from an American student. After taking part in a summer Mandarin program in Beijing, she decided to quit her job, sell her car and move to China. I asked her what attracts her most to China. She told me that she feels like she changes into another person when living in China. Being fluent in Mandarin, she can easily make new friends (either Chinese or Foreign) sharing the same interests and finding interesting new things to do, whereas in her hometown in the US, it was not easy for her to change her daily routine. And even better, she found love in this summer Mandarin program.
Another good story about one of my students from the student whom I recently helped to write and prepare a bilingual wedding speech. Seven years ago he was at a friend’s wedding in Shanghai, where he was introduced to a Shanghainese lady, this lady would later become his wife. Now he has moved to Shanghai to spend time with his wife’s family and look for job opportunities while learning Chinese in Silk Mandarin. He has studied hard and almost reached HSK level 4.
I’m always amazed by these kinds of stories. I enjoy the stories about how people get connected to China and to learn the language. Learning Mandarin is not easy, so I greatly admire all the efforts of our courageous students to learn Mandarin. Through their learning of mandarin, me and my colleagues also get a great opportunity to learn from them and connect to the world!
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
Definitely, that would be our Summer Intensive Program. How to learn a foreign language fast and with fun? If I could choose, this full-time immersive method would surely be my first choice.
Why this choice? Well, first of all, it teaches you the full aspects of the Chinese language, including the proper pronunciations and character reading, which most students regard as the most challenging part in the beginning. Furthermore, we introduce you to the whole system of the structures. Also, you will have plenty of opportunities to drill and practice all the newly learnt content, in the classroom and in real life.
But surely you don’t come over all the way to China to sit in a classroom and learn Mandarin right? That’s why we have incorporated many cultural trips and activities, so you really will get the best bite out of China.
To master a foreign language is always an endless journey, but I believe this program will be a significant and a beautiful step to connect your mind and your heart to China!!
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
Our Slow Motion Technique makes Silk Mandarin stand out. We found out that lots of Mandarin learners feel it is extremely difficult to bridge the gap between Western (non-Chinese) thinking and Chinese thinking. The existing Chinese teaching methods will instead not offer comprehension but offer rules, and even more rules. But “what’s the logic behind all these rules?” This question came from one of our students, and also co-founder of this Chinese language institute, Tjibbe van Ellen. Nobody at that time could clearly answer this question. So Silk Mandarin started up with a very simple mission, to answer this question. Apart from Tjibbe, over the years we’ve had many more students coming to us with this same question. They are all looking for the key to structure their learning, to learn Chinese in a more clever way, instead of just learning rules and more rules.
Eventually we found the key, this is the Slow Motion Technique! This idea was put forward by one of my colleagues, David, one of our most senior teachers. After further development by the whole team for years, it now has benefited almost all our students, as they are reaching their learning goal much faster. So, the development of this teaching methodology, the Slow Motion Technique, is exactly what I’m especially proud of our team.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
I believe to achieve the success, all members should keep the mission of the company in mind all the time.
At Silk Mandarin, everyone on the team knows the mission to spread the Chinese language by delivering our students the highest teaching quality possible and to have fun at the same time. Based on this mission, we set more specific goals and we work hard to reach them. We create new methodologies, we come up with new tools, we discuss and re-discuss in our team, we even argue sometimes, but we always find the way home.
We always believe that one day we will fullfill this mission, to offer the best Chinese course possible. It’s an exciting journey!