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MSL Master’s approach to Chinese courses

Teaching Chinese is a serious job. It’s not a job that teachers can just mind their own business. Results matter in this job. Teachers’ performance is reflected on students’ growth, which goes beyond test scores. 

The right approach to teaching Chinese is important. The best way to define the right approach is the final outcome, students’ learning outcomes. Once it is defined, other things will fall in places, such as teacher’s skill set (Read here:The necessary Chinese teacher’s skill set) and their roles in classrooms (Read here: How teachers manage themselves in Chinese classes).

Below is MSL Master’s approach to teaching Chinese and what I have in mind when naming the company “MSL Master”.

MSL Master stands for Mandarin as a Second Language Master. The approach to teaching and learning Chinese is represented by these three key words: “Mandarin”, “second”, and “master”.

MSL Master's approach to teaching Chinese


Let’s start with the word “master”. This is the mission statement. 

“Master” has two meanings. 

First of all, “master” is a verb. It means to grasp, to overcome, and to acquire knowledge. This is what we want our students to achieve, to master and to grasp Mandarin Chinese as a language. It is a process of developing Chinese language skills through a series of well designed Chinese courses. Students achieve Chinese language proficiency in both spoken and written form.   

Secondly, “master” is a noun, referring to someone who has the control and who is well learned. This is what we want our students to become, a master, a teacher and an expert of Chinese as a a language and culture. Our Chinese courses are designed to help students along the way. It is the ultimate achievement of learning, the end result of a demanding journey. It is to finally get to the sublimed status, to know.


The second word is “second”, which means our lessons are for non-Chinese speakers who learn Mandarin as a second language. In other words, our methods and textbooks work with young adults or adults the best, when their first language is fully developed.

In the place of the word “second”, we often see two alternatives: “foreign” and “international”. 

We did not like the term “Mandarin as a Foreign Language”. The word “foreign” indicates a divide between the self and the other, implying constant conflicts and never-ending struggles. We don’t want to see our students struggling with and fighting when they are leaning Chinese. We like students to enjoy and to embrace their learning experiences. 

For the term “Mandarin as an International Language”, it is definitely nice. But it also feels a bit of non-realistic, an overstatement. 

Although there are millions of people learning Chinese nowadays, Chinese still lacks popularity comparing with English, Spanish, Japanese or French.  

I certainly hope one day Chinese will be a truly international language.


The first word comes at last, and it is the focal point of our entire services and products. 

“Mandarin” means Mandarin Chinese language, the official language in mainland China and Taiwan. It is also commonly referred to as “putonghua” (普通话, the common language) or “guoyu” (国语, the language of the country).

This word demonstrates that the lessons we offer are Mandarin Chinese lessons, and books are Mandarin Chinese textbooks. 

Some additional notes on which Chinese writing system we teach: 

We recognise both simplified and traditional Chinese writing system. It is common to see both versions are widely used in the world, and it is an advantage to know both of them. 

However, it is not feasible to learn both systems at the same time, and our priority is given to simplified Chinese, which in general has less strokes to write than traditional Chinese. We think it is a bit easier for non-Chinese speakers, our students, to learn. Therefore, our Chinese writing courses and higher level courses teach Chinese texts written in simplified characters.