I’m fluent in Mandarin Chinese, but if you ask me to take a chemistry course in Mandarin, I’d most likely flunk. I do know the phrase for “chemistry” in Mandarin, however. It’s huà xué:
I was impressed when I heard that seven high school students in Columbus, Ohio, are taking general chemistry in Mandarin. Mandarin is one of the most challenging foreign languages to learn, and even after you’ve mastered conversational Mandarin, learning how to pronounce chemical terms can be like learning an entirely new language.
I called up Pinpin Peng, who teaches this unique course at Metro Early College High School, in Columbus, and asked her why she started this class. It’s highly selective and to get accepted, students must have taken three trimesters of Mandarin and aced their previous science courses. All of the lectures are in Mandarin, with all written text in English. The labs are also conducted in English, for safety reasons. I’ll go into more detail about my conversation with Peng in an upcoming Newscripts column.
In the meantime, have you ever studied chemistry in another language, perhaps during a study abroad trip? Feel free to blog about your experience here. I may incorporate your story into my Newscripts column!