If you think that English, as the international language of business, is the most spoken language in the world, you would be incorrect. English is spoken in more countries than any other language, but Mandarin is spoken by more people overall.

And as China grows in the global market, the importance of speaking the most common language on Earth grows with it. This is why Bonnie Liao founded YingHua International School at 33 River Road, to give children an important leg up for living and growing in the world of tomorrow.

Liao, a former college instructor in China, originally founded YingHua Language School, a weekend Chinese language school based at Rider University, in 2002. The class immediately took off with students, and her weekend classes still draw as many as 250 students. In 2007 she saw the need to bring Chinese language immersion education to children in the Princeton area. Hence she founded the full-day, full-curriculum YingHua International School.

As the only private school focused on Mandarin/English education in the area, YingHua International School immerses children as young as two-and-a-half (the YHIS preschool program) in Mandarin-language education from the beginning. All classes are taught entirely in Mandarin through kindergarten, and the percentage of English gradually increases through each grade, until classes are taught half-Mandarin, half-English in fifth grade and beyond.

No prior knowledge of Mandarin is required, and Liao says that about half her students do not speak Mandarin at home. Most speak English, and some speak a third language such as Spanish, Hindi, or Turkish.

Whatever language children speak at home, the immersion in Mandarin at YHIS feeds all parts of their minds. “Because Mandarin is so different from the Romance languages, it stimulates more of the brain to learn both,” Liao says.

The goal, of course, is not just to stimulate young minds, but to broaden worldviews and to prepare children to be more competent in the global market. It’s also to provide a conduit to one of the world’s most ancient cultures. “Many people are drawn to that very unique culture,” Liao says. “They want to expose their children to the best of the Eastern and Western worlds.”

It also is a school for those who do speak Mandarin at home. Liao and her faculty and staff want to ensure that every child has the highest proficiency in listening, reading, writing, and speaking the world’s most spoken language. Even for children who speak Mandarin at home, it is extremely difficult for them to achieve proficiency in reading and writing Chinese without academic immersion in the language.

Or maybe it’s better said through the school’s mission: To enable academic excellence and prepare students for compassionate, effective, and ethical global citizenship by facilitating English and Chinese language acquisition and instilling a passion for lifelong learning.

YingHua International Schoo, 33 River Road, Princeton. 609-375-8015, info@yhis.org, www.yhis.org.

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