Hola or 你好?

The Popularity of Spanish vs. Mandarin

Emma Chiu, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






With only about forty-five students enrolled, fewer people take Mandarin than Woodside’s other foreign languages― yet over one billion people speak Mandarin fluently, making it the world’s most spoken language.

Jing Xu, Woodside’s solo Mandarin teacher, teaches a mere three Mandarin classes: Mandarin 1, Mandarin 2, and a combined class of Mandarin 3, Mandarin 4, and AP Mandarin.

Since Mandarin lacks an alphabet, a distinct character represents each word.  “Some of the students are, I think, a little intimidated by learning Mandarin because it’s a different system,” Xu states.

In addition, because Mandarin’s syntax differs from that of English, English speakers find it a challenging language to learn.

Andrew Ngo, a sophomore taking Mandarin 2, points out, “You would say ‘my six has family,’ not ‘my family has six people’… it’s different from English and people want easy classes to take.”

Although the exoticism of Mandarin may deter students, Ngo enjoys his language class.  He describes it as interactive, self-guided, and including a multitude of cultural games and videos.

“We try to use fun activities to help them learn the language. We watch movies to help them learn the culture… and also, I don’t assign a lot of homework,” Xu concurs.

Compared to Mandarin’s meager fifteen students per class, Woodside’s popular Spanish program averages a high twenty-eight.

Amy Hanson, who teaches Spanish 3, Spanish 4, and AP Spanish, is certain that Spanish is Woodside’s most popular language class.  “More students are taking Spanish than the other languages we offer,” Hanson asserts.

Not only do twice the number of students attend every Spanish class, but there are four Spanish teachers for non-native speakers, four times that of Mandarin.  Hanson alone teaches over three times the number of students as Xu.

Karen Dorsey, who teaches Spanish 1 and 2, commented on the popularity of Spanish.  In her opinion, “Most students think [Spanish] is useful because so many people in California speak it.”

Thirty-eight percent of Californian citizens are fluent in Spanish, making California the state with the second highest percentage of Spanish speakers.  Since fifty-six percent of Woodside’s students are Hispanic, communication is a key factor in a student’s choice of foreign language.

Milena Raeber, a tenth grader taking both Mandarin 2 and Spanish 4, says she took Spanish due to its relevance, but she chose Mandarin mainly for fun.  “Here, not as many people speak Mandarin so there isn’t a demand,” Raeber explains.

Despite the common use of Spanish in the United States, students hoping to travel abroad may find Mandarin helpful.

While Xu concludes that learning any second language benefits your brain, she also hopes more students will choose Mandarin in the future: “To learn another language actually helps you better understand your own… but the number of Mandarin students is definitely increasing.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    Uber: Safe for Students?

  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    Homophobia in Hip-Hop at Woodside

  • Health and Lifestyle

    Middle Schoolers Should Learn LGBTQIA+

  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    Catcalls vs. Compliments

  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    Your Social Media Presence as a Teenager

  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    Healthier Students or Heavier Traffic?

  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    Woodside’s Preparedness for Disaster, Ready or Not?

  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    What Does LGBTQIA+ Mean to Members?

  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    Brazilian Rainbow Rights Regress

  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    How to Manage Senior Stress

  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    Should non-Woodside sports count for PE credit?

  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    Apple launches New iPhone X

  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    Will the iPhone 8 Be Worth the Wait?

  • Hola or 你好?

    Health and Lifestyle

    Students Know Stress, But Do Teachers Know It Too?

  • Health and Lifestyle

    How careful are Woodside students with social media?