SJMS Prepares cadets to become international leaders

Salina, KS. October 13, 2016 — St. John’s Military School is preparing its cadets to excel in an increasingly global economy. Professor Xiaotian “Marcus” Gao is teaching cadets at St. John’s Military School how to effectively communicate in Mandarin Chinese– now the most widely spoken language in the world. By expanding its foreign language curriculum to include Mandarin Chinese, St John’s Military School continues to evolve its academic offering to best prepare cadets to become leaders in an international workforce.

According to the Ethnologue research project, there are currently 897 million Mandarin Chinese speakers in the world across 14 primary countries. After several centuries of the West leading the global economy, China is on course to outpace its western neighbors. Already the second largest economy in the world, China has powerful economic ties to such global powerhouses as the United States, Japan, Germany, and Russia.

As the business world has realized the growing importance of China in the global economy, a growing number of students of all ages are interested in gaining proficiency in the Mandarin Chinese language. According to CCTA America, in 2010 alone, 750,000 people from around the world took the Official Chinese Proficiency Test with the goal of becoming one of the millions now speaking the world’s most popular language.

“China is the second biggest powerhouse country in the world,” said Gao. “A growing number of American companies are partnering with Chinese-based businesses. The ability to effectively communicate using Mandarin Chinese is becoming a growing requirement in the global economy, and St. John’s Military School is well-positioning its cadets to excel in this new global workforce.”

Not only is St. John’s Military School’s new Mandarin Chinese curriculum preparing cadets for future success in business and international politics, it’s helping to create an environment where the school’s international students feel welcomed and understood. With an emphasis on recruiting international students, St. John’s Military School’s Mandarin Chinese classes are fostering an appreciation of Chinese culture and helping to form friendships between Chinese and American students.

“We have several Chinese students currently enrolled at St. John’s Military School,” said Gao. “Part of the requirement of my Mandarin Chinese class is to practice speaking conversational Mandarin, so our American students are practicing with our Chinese students. It’s been a win-win for everyone. The American students are improving their Mandarin and learning about Chinese culture, and the Chinese students are enthusiastic about helping their classmates to learn about their home country, and all of them are forming friendships.”

Like many of St. John’s Military School’s faculty members, Gao takes a hands-on, creative approach to teaching his Mandarin Chinese classes.

“When I think about teaching Mandarin Chinese at St. John’s Military School, I think about how I started to learn English back in China,” said Gao. “In China we focus on grammar, reading, and writing instead of speaking, and as a result, a lot of Chinese students have a hard time speaking English. My focus is more on improving the cadets’ speaking abilities rather than on their reading and writing abilities. I want them to talk. When these young men start to realize that they can effectively communicate in Mandarin Chinese, they gain confidence.”

To further engage his students and better prepare them to become leaders in the international marketplace, Gao places an extra emphasis on learning about Chinese history and culture. Monday through Thursday Gao teaches cadets to recognize, write, and pronounce Mandarin Chinese characters. On Friday, he focuses entirely on teaching the cadets about China’s unique culture, further preparing them for the realities of a global economy.

“I teach my students about the Forbidden City and about the Great Wall,” said Gao. “I tell them Chinese stories, and we talk about Chinese customs that are different from what they experience in the United States. Understanding Chinese culture and customs will be just as important for them in their future in the business world as reading and writing Mandarin Chinese characters.”

The cadets at St. John’s Military School have fully embraced Gao’s class, and interest continues to grow for future enrollment.

“My current students are very interested in the Mandarin Chinese class,” said Gao. “They love that they can communicate in Mandarin already and they are very interested in Chinese culture. They are clearly thinking about traveling to China someday and are already confident in their abilities to communicate once they get there. For me, I love that my class sizes are still small enough that I can give my students individualized attention. The smaller classes are definitely a benefit of being enrolled in St. John’s Military School.”

When asked what advice he would give to students interested in learning Mandarin Chinese, Gao is resolute.

“They need to practice speaking in Mandarin Chinese. Learning Mandarin Chinese is a great way for the students at St. John’s Military School to be prepared for a future career in our growing global economy,” said Gao. “Like I keep telling my students, if you speak English, and understand Spanish and Chinese, the world is yours.”