Mandarin Immersion in China

November 16, 2012

immersing in Mandarin in China in an ideal environment

There is no better way to learn a language and culture than immersing in it and becoming part of the family as we are doing in China and we've written about that before in our Raising a Multilingual Child series and How and Why to Raise a Global Kid.

Being able to immerse ONLY in the Mandarin, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in China with extraodinary teachers ( some with PhD's) in a very special traditional Chinese school with TCM and Waldorf influences with  healthy, all organic food is a blessing and rare opportunity for our daughter.

Thanks to Winser Zhao for introducing us to this wonderful school and people. He had first met the very impressive TCM doctor and principal through volunteering together at  a NGO interested in environmental issues. We are very honored to have them be our hosts in Beijing and love everything this school stands for.

Why not deeply learn a language, literature and culture in the most fun ways possible? Our just-turned-12 daughter is already fluent from doing a Mandarin high school in Asia for 16 months, reading and writing well at a 3rd grade level and use to being the only American and blond in a Mandarin school in Asia. Now this Dragon year born child visits China in a Dragon year for deeper immersion and connection to the Chinese culture.

This gives her ease and a fantastic base to begin a journey in China and we've been pleased to discover just how good her Mandarin is including knowing the 弟子规  Di Zi Gui, ( which is extremely rare for a foreigner). She understands everything and can easily join in conversations and read books here and the locals understand her Mandarin without any foreign accent. We are sooo happy we have done it this way, coming here prepared and able to get the most out of our time here.

The advantage of being in China now is few here speak any English, so she can immerse day and night without any English or Spanish for this month and get to know the culture even deeper by living it like a local. Most English-speaking people who visit China, miss what she is getting, exploring it for the first time as a fluent and literate person in Mandarin.


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Chinese School in Asia- 11 year old Learning Physics in Mandarin

American in a Chinese school immersing in Mandarin with kids

Mozart adores babies and kids, so this is a playful way to immerse. She just finished nine months of intensive Mandarin High School (skipped several years ahead), so it's good for her to have a lot of fun and play time on her school vacation while she does this immersion.

As an "only" child this also allows her to be a "big sister" to these Chinese kids and also converse with and help the teachers with real-life experience and internship in "playing school". It is a very loving, healthy environment where we feel safe in letting her spend the night and we can visit at any time and set up an office for us to work in this very large building. The teachers have tested her Mandarin speaking/reading/writing levels and work individually with her too to increase each as they have materials up to 6th grade level.

We'll be doing in depth visits to the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven again through the school,  to learn and absorb deeper understanding of traditional Chinese culture. Getting an insider perspective from knowledgable locals that few get.

It is common here for some young kids to stay over night in the school on weekdays and go home with the family on weekends, but Mozart has almost never been apart from us, (partly because of our travel lifestyle, and our deep belief in attachment parenting) so this is an adventure in independence for her too.

A group of older kids come after school between 3 P.M. and 8 P.M., including a twelve year old girl that has a brother who is a student here, so this gives her some older children to play with as well. With the twenty-something teachers, older help and parents, she has a wide range of local people and loving community to connect with and converse with at the school.

serving delicious, nutritious organic TCM food at Chinese school in Beijing

The school principal is a TCM doctor, so health is of utmost importance to the school and they serve only organic food which is super delicious and nutritious. This is a photo of the head cook and the photos in the background are basics about TCM food to help educate the children about eating well.

We parents often eat lunch there ( using chopsticks of course) and learn more about Chinese food and culture as we enjoy the scrumptious food. Mozart eats all her meals and snacks there just like the Chinese students, thus another important way to immerse deeply in the culture.

It's an extremely clean and well organized kitchen and dining rooms ( and the school is filled with extraordinary antiques and beautiful wooden furntiture and art). We were told the exceptional cooks could work elsewhere for more money, but they enjoy serving the children and being part of this school.

large play area in Chinese school in Beijing

The space the school is in is huge and I will be doing a more detailed report and series on our experience here. There is a connected organic food coop on the floor below with large office with the school is primarily on the second floor. ...all in central Beijing in a family friendly middle class area.

The kids go outside to a nearby park every morning hand in hand which Mozart enjoys too and this gigantic play room is used every day as well. All of the equipment is child friendly materials to help increase the children's physical abilities as well as fun to do. Mozart adores sliding on the wheelie thing down the little roller coaster on her belly like in this photo as well as building block creations with the kids, jumping on the trampolines or swinging like above.

One of our offices in China at this beautiful Chinese school in Beijing

Mid day when the little kids are taking a nap, Mozart gets some private lessons and time to read and write in Mandarin. They have a fantastic selection of kids books in Mandarin, so perfect for her and sometimes she reads to the little ones.

We set up our little office with our laptops when there at this lovely wood table and can give her a hug or kiss as she walks by. We're also going to teach the kids a song and put on a little play before we leave with the kids and teachers with them learning a bit of English and Mozart will be the master of ceremony explaing it all in Mandarin. Can you guess the theme? Thanksgiving!

chinese school dining room for kids

This is a photo of the kids having their afternoon snack ( they get three healthy meals and two snacks every day). You can see the other 12 year old who comes after school, but there are several other older neighborhood kids who also come every day.

Mozart has always been the youngest in school, so this is a nice change for her and different perspective.

Originally we were going to work with a language school that has an immersion program for kids where they stay with a local family and go to a local school. But our timing made that impossible because China is going through a once-every-10-years government change and sadly right before we came they put a limit on foreign students in the older grades.

This serendipity has been a great blessing as I can't imagine a better situation for us on our first visit to China to immerse in the language and culture. We are so impressed with this magnificent school and these outstanding people and share the same values.

The adventures of Tintin in Mandarin at Chinese school

They have a enormous and fantastic selection of quality kids books in Mandarin which all the kids love and keeps Mozart occupied in spare moments like this classic Tintin book ( that are so popular in Europe).

chinese school in China dorm room for kids

Mozart enjoyed showing us where she sleeps every night at the school and one can spot her bed by the little Panda she just got from the Four Seasons Beijing when we arrived. Just four kids, (including her favorite, a bright 6 year old girl), sleep over night with two teachers.

She has just finished her first week  and loved it, but we are all looking forward to our weekend together with the sweet family we are staying with and more exploring of Beijing together.

What would you like to know about the school or our experiences with Mandarin immersion?

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winser zhao

i love to read your post. seems I was with you all the day.

Margaret Sch.

Once again, the whole experience that your daughter is living . . . with parents nearby for support but letting go enough to let her "do it," blows me away! The life of joy and opportunity that she is engaged in is truly inspiring. Happy China Days to all of you! (P.S. It is absolutely worth all effort that it takes to be prepared with language skills to take part in a new culture whenever possible. Not always possible, but all the building blocks are in place for Mozart to obtain awesome benefits and longlasting skills and knowledge that most of us cannot even fathom.) She must get a great deal of satisfaction from her meaningful interactions with Chinese people in China.

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Thanks so much Winser...we are so grateful to be your friend and so happy with this school that you introduced us to!

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Thanks so much Margaret, our trip to China is turning out more thrilling and full of sweetness...more than we expected.

Yes, this school really is a magical piece of luck for us and is just the right blend of newness, independence and comfort for a just turned 12 year old.

Luckily, it has turned out better than our original plan!

And yes, I can see how knowing the language so well is helping this visit so much. I had hoped as much, but one never knows until you do it. Mandarin is already part of her, so gives her much more meaningful connection and ease.

She is a great little translator for us too and this helps a lot during the weekends as most of our hosts do not speak English, so she helps us all connect better.

We are use to her doing this in Spain, but it is a joy to see her doing it with Mandarin in China! Since she mostly speaks her Mandarin in Malaysia at the school, we are happy to experience the depth of her speaking here in China where she must use it more.

It helps our whole family connect better like here with our hosts or when talking to the cook at the school or out and about etc. Even taking the bus or subway is easier with her with us. ;)

I get to see first hand how my lack of language isolates me and hers helps her connect/understand effortlessly. Makes the hard work of language learning worth all the effort!!


What a fantastic experience for your family. This school looks wonderful. I never would have guessed something like this would exist in China.

This is also a wonderful growing experience as a first sleep away situation for your daughter. We also are an attachment parenting style family and have found that early experiences like this were every beneficial for our daughter. This will make later transitions much smoother for both of you. She will gain much emotional maturity from this experience that will serve her well.

What a delightful school you have found, and an ideal situation for learning both language and culture. Thank you so much for sharing this with us all!

Margaret Sch.

Jeanne, it's OK to tag along through your child and consider that you have prepared for life where you are through nurturing HER and letting her get those skills that help the whole family. You knew from before the time she was born that her young mind was well suited to learn second languages in the deepest and most authentic way. So awesome how this is all turning out at present, and I predict more wonderful surprises along the road of life with your beautiful Mozart. And what fun stories she will have to tell her friends back in Malaysia!

Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home

That's really impressive! What a great opportunity for your daughter to learn Chinese and understand the Chinese culture. I'm also amazed by your strength to give her more freedom, so she can be more independent. Not many parents can do that... even when their children are around 30 years old :)


How long will you be in Beijing? This seems like such a unique experience for your girl. How much longer will you live in Malaysia before you are off to your adventure? Have fun.



This is my first posting at your site, though I have been reading your blog for a while. It is such a thrill to learn you are in Beijing right now! Wonderful stories you have written about your stay in this city, and thank you so much for sharing them!!

I was born and raised in Guangzhou and came to the States for my higher education in the 80's, so I have lived longer overseas than in my sweet homeland. But we are increasingly interested to share our heritage with our two teen children (12 yo son and 15 yo daughter), and I am very inspired by what you and your family have done!

My daughter did a 6-week intensive Mandarin program at a univ in Guangzhou over the summer and loved it (though it was "tough" in her own words :). I have taught her some Mandarin when she was younger, but she stopped for a while going into high school and early college. She is planning to explore more in Asia this summer, perhaps South Korea which is her Dad's motherland.
We are likely to spend sometime in Beijing after she finish her program in Seoul, so it's encouraging to learn more from your blogging about the city.

Could you share with us if you have any information about organic food availability or even just some other options?

Jeanne @soultravelers3

What an interesting story, Connie, so happy you commented and told us about your family!

I am still learning about the organic food here and most of the locals we are meeting are quite concerned about it too.

My friend Winser who has been helping us works for an organic farm, so he can probably help me out in that area.

The school also uses only organic food, as do the family we are living with, so we've been lucky in this way.

I am not being as pure as I was in Penang and I think it is more difficult here, but we are actually looking into staying longer, so trying to find out more info on this topic and will let you know as I can.

There is a Yahoo group for expats about organic food in Beijing.

Jeanne @soultravelers3

We're in Beijing ( primarily) for a month as we just got a 30 day visa ( asked for more, but one gets what one gets and we came at a time of gov't change and some restrictions on foreigners).

We're not sure about's mostly based on my health and her Mandarin right now. We might come back and do more exploring in China and want to do more in SE Asia as well.

So many places, so little time...even for us.

winser zhao

the principal is Ms Huang. she told me they will open other school in China soon. the name is 广仁书院 in Chinese btw.


I am so excited to hear about this school. I am thinking of an immersion program of 1 month for my 6 year old . Can I kindly have the contact for this school? Also, how about the fees? Thanks a lot Jess

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Jess, I am going to be writing more about the school, but don't really have the answers to your questions or how they normally handle requests like yours.

This was set up through a long time friend of mine...Winser Zhao from China Travel I suggest you contact him as he teaches Tai Chi and Caligraphy there.

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