(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed
are his own.)
By Chris Taylor
NEW YORK, April 24 If famed investor Jim Rogers
is known for one trait above all, it is for spotting themes
early -- and betting on them big.
So when the co-founder of The Quantum Fund (with George
Soros) and author of "Adventure Capitalist" became a father, he
naturally thought of how best to give his daughters an
His answer: Have them learn Mandarin.
"I am spending a lot of time, money and energy to be sure my
kids do it," Rogers told Reuters.
Indeed. Instead of just hiring a Mandarin-speaking nanny or
having his daughters take a language class or two per week, the
Rogers family packed up their belongings and moved across the
world to Singapore.
"My older daughter has now won the nationwide
Mandarin-speaking contest two years in a row," Rogers said. "Her
little sister is even better."
Of course, not every parent is willing to undertake such a
dramatic life change. But there is no denying that more and more
Americans are keen to have their children learn the language of
the world's most populous country and second-largest economy.
From schools with Mandarin enrichment, to immersion programs
overseas, to lessons with private tutors, the Chinese-language
options for everyone from toddlers to teens seem to be
multiplying by the day.
"Based on a survey of type-A parents in D.C., New York and
Los Angeles, the interest level is 100 percent," jokes Marc
Ross, spokesman for the US-China Business Council, a Washington,
D.C.-based trade group.
But as with anything in high demand, acquiring such skills
does not necessarily come cheap, although there are some free
options. Here is what it will cost to pick up the Mandarin
MANDARIN ENRICHMENT AND IMMERSION
For a stunning array of options, check out the institutions
in the Confucius Classrooms Network, the New York-based Asia
Society's roundup of "exemplary" Chinese language and culture
Together, they add up to more than 25,000 students at more than
100 elementary, middle and high schools across the nation.
Some programs go well beyond the occasional instructional
class, all the way to language immersion -- even for
pre-kindergartners with their sippy cups and stuffed animals.
Search for local options by simply plugging in your ZIP code
at another site (chineseimmersionschools.com), and you
get results plotted on an interactive map.
One free example: Washington Yu Ying public charter school
in Washington, D.C. (washingtonyuying.org) - visited by
First Lady Michelle Obama before her March trip to China -
offers Chinese immersion for students who win a spot through its
A growing number of private institutions are rolling out
Mandarin options, too.
On the high end: Brooklyn's Science, Language & Arts (ecolefrancochinoise.org),
an immersion school for pre-kindergarten through the third
grade that teaches both French and Mandarin. This year's tuition
ranged from $14,800-$16,300, with a minimum of two Mandarin
classes a week and more time set aside for advanced speakers.
OVERSEAS IMMERSION PROGRAMS
As any language learner knows, an efficient way to learn is
to have no choice but to speak the local language.
The Mandarin Immersion Parents Council -- founded in 2007 in
San Francisco -- offers a handy compendium of camps and summer
programs for kids (here).
Many take place in Beijing, such as those offered by China
Study Abroad (here),
Live the Language (here),
and Ivy Schools (here).
Costs start around $3,000 and can go up to nearly $40,000.
One new summer-camp option is the International Leadership
Camp (ileadershipcamp.com) in Taihu, China, organized by
Pennsylvania-based Camp Kweebec. The organization will take up
to 50 kids, between ages 10 and 13, for a 25-day camp this July
that will mix Mandarin classroom instruction with cultural
activities like martial arts, cooking and calligraphy. The price
"Some parents might think it is nuts to send their kid to
China," says Matt Rosenfeld, Camp Kweebec's associate director.
"But others say it is exactly the kind of experience they have
been looking for. The goal is for kids to come home speaking
comfortably, learning between 300-400 characters."
If having your kid travel to Guangzhou or Shenzhen isn't
really your bag, you can stick close to home and go the
Rates tend to vary widely, depending on location and
experience. Local options can be sifted at sites like WyzAnt (wyzant.com),
which boasts a database of more than 72,000 tutors in multiple
Of course, with tech advances like Skype, you don't even
really need to have a tutor in your living room. The site
DiscoverMandarin.com, for instance, founded by Ridgewood, New
Jersey's Corinne Dillon - a fluent Mandarin speaker herself -
links you live on a one-on-one basis with teachers in Beijing.
Such an approach is geared more toward middle-schoolers and
high-schoolers, given the nature of the format. A package of 50
classes, lasting 50 minutes each, runs $25 per lesson -- or
$1,250. Signing up for fewer classes boosts that rate up to $30
or $35 per lesson.
(Follow us @ReutersMoney or here
Editing by Lauren Young and Leslie Adler)