My name is Camden, and I am a sophomore at Lakewood High School in Denver, Colorado. I am a Pamoja student currently taking IB Mandarin ab initio and have found it to be an excellent learning experience with a multifaceted approach to language development and acquisition. I initially decided to study Mandarin after a family trip to Beijing and Shanghai when I was in 7th grade. The language had always interested me and I liked knowing that it would enable me to communicate with a large percentage of the world’s population. Because my school in Colorado did not yet have a Chinese program, I began exploring language education options. After researching many programs, I determined that Pamoja was the most effective and most efficient way to learn a language at an IB level.  Additionally, I found that Pamoja employed the best online learning tactics and utilised the most rigorous curriculum to ensure that students not only prepare for the IB test, but also find ways to apply the subjects they are learning in the real world.

“Pamoja has been a meaningful tool in teaching me the Chinese language and in enabling me to use my newly developed skills while traveling in China.”

Over the last 3 years, my family has visited China multiple times. We enjoy the culture, the people, the food and the history. During our first few visits to China, I began to pick up individual characters, piecing together small words such as “出口” and “入口”  (exit and enter) simply from context.  However, I was nowhere near fully understanding full words or even understanding how to pronounce the characters. This inability to communicate in a foreign country piqued my interest in Chinese, and ever since I have been looking for as many ways to learn the language as possible. Over the course of our next few trips, I was able to communicate in bits, understanding a sentence here or there and ordering simple things at restaurants. However, nothing prepared me for the breakthrough I had when I began learning with Pamoja.

Towards the end of my first semester with Pamoja, my family visited China during November 2018 and traveled to Shanghai and Beijing. With Pamoja, I had been studying basic introductions, daily life, and hobbies. In addition to studying and writing the characters, I also focused on tones, pinyin, and Chinese grammar. This method was vastly different from other programs that I had used before, as many methods just focused on writing or just focused on speaking — Pamoja is a comprehensive approach to language learning. It also made a significant difference in my understanding and acquisition of the language, and made me appreciate the teaching style of Pamoja.  Moreover, it was extremely rewarding to be able to communicate entirely in Chinese, thereby enhancing my experiences and understanding of the Chinese culture on our visit.

One of my fondest memories from our last trip was when we had just arrived in Shanghai and my family and I were looking for transportation to get us to our hotel. Despite being extremely jetlagged, I was able to find the taxi stand, request two taxis, and explain that no, in fact, we were not moving to China as assumed based on the number and sizes of our suitcases.  Additionally, once in the taxi, my mom and I were able to communicate with the taxi driver – without the typical hotel taxi card. We successfully told him the name of our hotel and its location, and thereafter maintained a full conversation with the taxi driver, covering topics including where he was from, his age, his family, and what he liked to do in his free time. All. In. Chinese!  Just that conversation alone was a massive success for me, and there were many more like it over the next 10 days. I was able to order ice cubes for our family when ordering drinks at restaurants, tell our massage therapists not to press our feet as hard, obtain the correct tickets at many attractions, and order all sorts of delicious food. I was also able to make great friends with many members of our hotel staff who were more than willing to talk about their families and hometowns – again, all in Chinese. My favorite memory from our trip was during a lunch at a popular restaurant, joking with our waiter and clarifying that we wanted to order twenty dumplings, instead of twenty orders (of ten dumplings).

As a result of my experiences in and connection with China, I decided to plan and execute my Boy Scout Eagle Project in Inner Mongolia in March 2018. For the project, I organized a group of 16 US volunteers, 10 Chinese university students and 8 members of the local community to work together to plant 100 trees in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy. My experience in communicating with these Chinese volunteers from the local university and community only convinced me more that I should begin learning Mandarin at an IB level – and led me directly to Pamoja.

In sum, Pamoja has been a meaningful tool in teaching me the Chinese language and in enabling me to use my newly developed skills while traveling in China. Three years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be effectively speaking, reading, and writing Mandarin Chinese. However, thanks to Pamoja and my teacher, Wenyi Chu, I am now able to converse and communicate effectively in Chinese – all within completing my first semester of learning. If this is the result of the linguistic education I can develop from Pamoja in one semester, I am excited for the advancement of my skills and knowledge over the next three semesters.

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