Piedmont Language School Mandarin Program

The Piedmont Language School (PLS) Mandarin Program helps children enjoy learning Mandarin through social interaction, hands-on activities and creative thematic teaching. We believe in immersion learning and use Mandarin as much as possible in the classroom. Chinese culture is also a significant component of language learning, and we introduce songs, stories and the celebration of key Chinese holidays in the classrooms across all levels.

PLS’ Lower School encompasses the Introductory, 1A, 1B and 2 Levels.  The tone of these classes is having fun with the language, and the goal is to instill a love of learning Mandarin, an accent and an ear.  We are immersion-based while bringing art and crafts into these classrooms.

PLS’ Upper School is Levels 3 and 4.  These classes are for more advanced students and signify a more academic chapter in language learning.  However, the trend for Mandarin at our middle and high schools is towards ‘what you can do with the language that you have learned’, and with this in mind, our focus is on a more practical / functional Mandarin.  Homework will be consistently assigned in the Upper School.

Introduction to Mandarin class is for beginners and our youngest students (TK to 1st grade). This class lays a fun foundation for learning at the higher levels. A textbook is not used at this level; the teacher teaches in themes primarily using crafts, rhymes, storytelling and games to engage students. Some of the themes explored in this class are Myself, My Family and My Friends. The idea is for students to get a feel for the language, and to immerse in the spoken language, without being conscious of the fact that they are learning. Students will build a vocabulary of between 70-80 words to prepare them for Level 1A or 1B.  There is no formal homework though videos and worksheets are at times sent home.

Level 1A builds upon the themes in our Introduction class by revisiting them in greater depth. A textbook is not used; instead, we have a weekly leaflet containing the week’s lesson that students bring home to reinforce what they have learned in the classroom. A colorful workbook with pictures and a writing exercise book introduce students to basic character strokes and sequence. Seeing Chinese characters as structures made up of recognizable strokes and components helps students with writing at the higher levels. The focus at Level 1A is listening, speaking and simple character recognition, rather than writing. Level 1A covers a vocabulary of between 70-80 words. There is no homework though videos and worksheets are at times sent home.

Level 1B students cover vocabulary of between 80-90 words and are taught sentence structures they can apply to their daily life. Level 1B textbooks have color pictures and dialogue suitable for students of elementary school age. Level 1B also uses worksheets and a writing exercise book. Teachers give weekly homework (10 – 15 mins) and fun topical assessments (quizzes, class competitions) to make sure students understand what they have learned. This level focuses on listening, speaking, reading, and the fundamentals of writing Chinese characters.

Level 2A students continue to focus on listening, speaking and reading. They develop their writing skills by building up their database of simple Chinese characters and are introduced to Hanyu Pinyin. Teachers give weekly homework (15 – 20 mins) and evaluate students after each topic to make sure they are ready to move on.

Level 2B students work on listening, speaking and reading but start to develop their writing skills by building up their database of simple Chinese characters.  Examples of themes in Level 2 are Professions, The Zoo, Shopping and Ordering food.  Students continue to expand their vocabulary by 80-90 words and Hanyu Pinyin is truly taught at this level.  Teachers give weekly homework (15 – 20 mins) and evaluate students after each topic to make sure they are ready to move on.

Level 3 is the start of the academic phase in PLS’ program. Students are expected to arrive with a firm grasp of Hanyu Pinyin, the most-frequently used Chinese characters and basic sentence structures.

Level 3 uses Chinese Wonderland, Volume 3. Students will use other materials to review basic radicals previously learned and continue to learn more semantic radicals. The learning of radicals will eventually help students master the core composition theory of Chinese characters, which is very helpful as they progress in learning Mandarin. Students will also review the sentence structures previously learned and move on to more complex sentences. Frequent assessments will be given to ensure that students are ready to move on to the next unit. Every study unit will also contain a cultural component, including holidays and customs. Worksheets, videos, crafts, and other fun activities are used to teach in the classroom. There will be thirty minutes of homework per week, and parents are asked to support their children by offering them access to related videos and encouraging them to complete the homework. 

Level 4 students will continue to learn more semantic radicals, and at the end of the year, the goal is not only for students to demonstrate well-developed conversational skills, and be able to read and write in Chinese, but also for them to develop an understanding of Chinese culture from a historical and sociological perspective. Videos, quizzes, games, role playing are used to teach in the classroom. There will be frequent classroom assessments, and also 15-20 minutes homework daily. Parents are asked to play a greater role in supporting their children so that homework is completed, and encouraging their children in their learning journey.

Class Schedule:

Classes are typically held after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Piedmont Community Church. Annually, classes begin in September and end in May; all holidays follow the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) calendar. The student to teacher ratio will not exceed 13 to 1.

In the Fall of 2020, we may have to resume Mandarin classes through a combination of remote and online (Zoom) teaching.  Decisions will be made over the summer of 2020.

All classes are subject to cancellation due to low enrollment or classroom availability.


$650.00 per semester plus (annual) $100 textbook and supplemental materials fee.

PLS would like to make language learning available to as many students as possible. Please contact us about scholarships if we can help make language study more accessible to your family.

Contact Us:

If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected] or call (510) 652-5229.