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the official student-produced news site for Saint Stephen's Episcopal School

the Gauntlet

the official student-produced news site for Saint Stephen's Episcopal School

the Gauntlet

There has never been a better time to take Chinese at SSES

Language is not just a filler class, it’s a chance to improve your communication and cultural awareness, cultivate life skills, and have fun.
Grace Baxendale
Chinese teacher Mr. Mazzarelli provides many opportunities for his students to practice their skills outside the classroom. These students are the first from Saint Stephens to participate in the Florida Statewide Chinese Competition.

“Raise your hand if you’re taking Spanish class,” my teacher said one morning. Half of the class raised their hand. “Raise your hand if you’re learning Latin,” he followed. The other half raised their hand. Then, that was it. Once again, Chinese class was forgotten. 

As you’re reading this, you might be thinking, “Chinese is offered in high school?” 

Don’t worry, I don’t blame you if you did. As one of the two sophomores taking Chinese, it’s not an understatement to say the class is one of the hidden gems of Saint Stephen’s.

But why so? Why aren’t more Falcons taking Chinese? 

Mandarin teacher Jack Mazzarelli described the main reason that may deter people from taking Chinese. 

“The outward appearance of Chinese is [that it is] very difficult,” Mazzarelli said. “People perceive Chinese to be very difficult in comparison to what we offer at Saint Stephen’s.” 

Mazzarelli explained that the uniqueness of the language can be intimidating for many.

“If I don’t know a character in Chinese, what am I going to do?” Mazzarelli asked.  “In other languages you might be able to sound it out, but you can’t do that in Chinese. For example, president, presidente, and 总统 (zǒngtǒng). It’s obvious which one here is the odd one out.” 

But despite the challenging impression people have of Chinese, the benefits to learning the language are immeasurable. When thinking of the purposes of taking Chinese, usually only business and government come to mind. Which is fair– learning a foreign language is a great asset to have in regards to both careers— however a skill that often gets overlooked is the ability to communicate in general, which is exactly what learning Chinese fosters by pushing students to go outside their comfort zone.

“[Before] learning Chinese, I was very shy and didn’t have great communication skills,” Mazzarelli said. “Learning Chinese taught me how to have communication skills. It’s a new mode of communication and taught me how to do things that were not available to me before.”

“Learning Chinese taught me how to have communication skills. It’s a new mode of communication and taught me how to do things that were not available to me before.” 

— Mr. Mazzarelli

Public speaking can seem like an impossible skill to learn, but by being pushed to communicate in Chinese, students will improve their speech. And this applies not only in their second language but also their first. Whether it be through regular oral exams, acting out dialogues in class, or participation in events like the Florida Statewide Chinese Competition, Mr. Mazzarelli makes sure his classroom provides a safe space to build confident communication skills.

Additionally, according to ACTFL, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, learning a second language increases cultural awareness and allows students to develop a more positive attitude towards different cultures. 

As Saint Stephen’s continues to promote the global initiative, the foreign language department is building a bridge to connect students around the world, inside and outside of the classroom. 

The benefits of taking Chinese can certainly be felt throughout Saint Stephen’s. 7th grade student Molly Harris is currently learning Chinese and shared how her communication skills have improved since learning a second language. 

“Not only has Chinese helped me work in groups with others, but it has also helped me write my essays in English,” Harris commented. “In class, we have to write structured paragraphs in Chinese about our lessons, which has improved my essay writing skills in English too.”

Freshman Chinese student Isabelle Mills also believes that learning Chinese has leveled up her life skills. 

“My family comes from Singapore and Malaysia,” Mills said. “Chinese has allowed me to learn cultural aspects that I wasn’t super familiar with. It has also helped me become more open as a person.” 

Importantly, a second language is not just a “filler class.” It’s a chance to improve who you are as a person across all aspects of your life. And that is what Mazzarelli hopes his students take away from his class. 

“Regardless if they love Chinese or say I never want to speak it again, what I really hope they take away are these skills,” Mazzarelli said.  “That they can deal with the improv required in everyday life. Ideally you can do that in Chinese, but if not that’s okay too. But I’m going to make sure [my students] can do it in both.”

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About the Contributor
Grace Baxendale
Grace Baxendale, Staff Writer, Staff Artist
Grace Baxendale is a Sophomore and a first year staff writer on The Gauntlet. She enjoys art, gaming, and listening to music in her free time. She’s watched almost every horror movie released, although she also likes thrillers and drama. She also has two cats that mean the world to her. Her favorite artists are Radiohead, Wave to Earth, Deftones, and Slowdive. 


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  • Jack MazzarelliApr 29, 2024 at 8:23 pm

    Thank you for the feature! 加油Grace!