Almost 1.2 billion people world-wide speak some form of Chinese. The most common dialect, Mandarin, is spoken by about 960 million people, primarily in mainland China. Like Japanese, Mandarin Chinese lacks a common Latin root with English. This rules out using cognates (words that have a common etymological origin) as a short-cut to learning the language. Unlike Japanese, however, Chinese lacks an alphabet (or alphabets). Chinese is written entirely with iconographic characters. The bare minimum number of characters needed to communicate clearly in Chinese is approximately 2000. Complex, real-world situations can demand tens of thousands.
All spoken Chinese dialects, including Mandarin, are tonal based. Learning to pronounce and hear the subtle tonal distinctions can be quite difficult for native English speakers. Adding to the confusion are the many homophones (words that are pronounced similarly but have different meanings) found in modern Chinese. Depending on the meaning, the same spoken syllable can represent many characters, and a single written character can possess a range of meanings depending on the context in which it is used.
The Language Island offers comprehensive, one-on-one instruction for students at every point on their journey to learning Mandarin Chinese. Tutors work with a student to develop an individualized lesson plan tailored to his or her needs. Our tutors are passionate, caring and highly fluent in the languages they teach. They pride themselves on connecting with their students and being able to carry on fluent, natural sounding conversations entirely in the language being taught. Entry-level classes are taught in both Mandarin and in English, with an increasing amount of Mandarin being used as a student becomes more comfortable with the new language. Intermediate and advanced-level students can take advantage of full-immersion classes, where the course is taught entirely in Mandarin. Our tutors use only the best materials available. They have sorted through the fads and gimmicks to find the most effective techniques that have truly stood the test of time.