Students in LeeJun Taylor’s Grade 7 Mandarin Chinese, grade 6 enrichment, and Chinese I classes at the high school, recently enjoyed a visit from CJ Beede, a 1976 BH-BL graduate, who spent nearly all of his career working and living in China. Beede congratulated the students for studying Mandarin at an early age and spoke to them about the importance, in today’s world, of being able to speak the language.
He explained that Mandarin is currently spoken by nearly one-fifth of the world’s population. In fact, the United States has a significant Chinese-speaking population with approximately 3 million U.S. residents speaking Chinese at home. Beede explained that learning Chinese language actually opens up a unique window into one of the world’s richest and most ancient civilizations because learning Chinese language also means learning about Chinese history, cultural values, philosophical and religious beliefs, and aesthetic traditions.
Beede also shared stories with the students about his life experiences living in China and Chinese culture. Upon graduation from BH-BL, Beede attended Harvard University and then joined the U.S. Department of State where he was assigned to study Mandarin in Taipei, Taiwan. His career was primarily as an economic officer, including working on trade, intellectual property rights, civil aviation, fisheries, and promotion of U.S. exports.
He had Chinese language assignments in Taipei and Kaohsiung, Taiwan and in Beijing and Shanghai, China, totaling nearly 17 years. In addition, he had assignments in Belize and Denmark, as well as in Washington, DC. Since his retirement in 2014, he has been contracting with the US Department of State updating and revising the Mandarin language training program for Foreign Service Officers.
Beede and wife Emma (a native of Taiwan) have two sons who also speak Mandarin and both sons placed out of their U.S. college foreign language requirements based on their Mandarin skills gained in high school classes.
At BH-BL, students can begin studying Mandarin Chinese as early as sixth grade through the middle school’s enrichment program. This year alone, 75 students are signed up to take the enrichment courses. And this is the first year that BH-BL has offered Mandarin Chinese as a world language offering to seventh graders. There are currently nearly a dozen students enrolled in the three-year sequence (grades 7-9) that culminates with a Regents exam in ninth grade. At the high school level, Mandarin Chinese I and III courses are currently offered in school as well as through Distance Learning to other districts.
The American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages state that graduates with proficiency in Mandarin are well positioned for jobs in business, diplomacy, engineering, science, law, philosophy, political science, technology, finance, tourism, translation, teaching, and much more.
In fact, a seminal study of languages in the U.S. jobs market found that Chinese is not only the most-requested language after Spanish by employers, but the language that has experienced the greatest growth in demand. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of job postings requiring Chinese language skills increased by 230 percent! In addition to working in a cross-border capacity, people who speak Chinese can support companies, nonprofits, and government agencies that market to and serve Chinese-speaking communities right here at home.