Now Might Be a Great Time to Learn Mandarin Chinese

Course description

If you’ve wondered about learning Mandarin Chinese to read Chinese news first-hand, converse with loved ones who speak Chinese, to use while traveling to Chinese-speaking countries,  or to take on a fascinating challenge, this 3-session course for adults 50 and over introduces you to how to learn Mandarin Chinese efficiently and effectively.

Why might now be an ideal time for people 50 and over to learn Mandarin Chinese?

  1.  We may be able to directly and indirectly contribute to national and world peace. Peace in any relationship – whether personal or international – depends upon being able to talk. Given the growing number of hate crimes in the U.S. and tensions between the U.S. and China, we, literally, need to speak each other’s language to gain deep, mutual understanding of each other’s needs and wants, feelings and thoughts, rights and aspirations.
  2. We may connect more deeply with others – and with our own. For adults who have loved ones who speak Mandarin Chinese or who have children or grandchildren learning Mandarin Chinese, interaction not only fosters learning, but sharing language experiences fosters communication and, therefore, authentic connection.
  3.  We may be putting our mature human brains to optimal use. The findings of neuroscience contradict the myth that second language learning is ineffectual in adulthood. In fact, with assistance with a) intermittent, short-term memory challenges, b) large font/print materials, and c) reading materials of interest to adults, the intricately, deeply and extensively networked mature adult human brain may be particularly primed for second language acquisition.
  4. Learning Mandarin Chinese may be a way to covertly protest and influence the perception of aging in the U.S. To counter loss of purpose and meaning, cognitive decline, and social isolation, triumphantly, learning Mandarin Chinese has no less than world peace as its mission, neuroscience backs it as a potentially  enhancingimproving, even restorative cognitive endeavor, and connection with instructors and people with whom to practice is available online, 24-7.

Wishing you wealth and prosperity

Course outline

  • Session 1: Research-backed ways to foster second language acquisition in older adults and top tools for doing so with Mandarin Chinese.
  • Session 2: Inside story on pronunciation and tones with a native speaker and instructor of Mandarin Chinese.
  • Session 3: Options for next steps for those who wish to continue with their study of Mandarin Chinese.


  1. Download and use the Hello Chinese app. Early learning features are free; premium subscriptions start at $8.99 per month. Hello Chinese is beautiful and beautifully coded, offers enough explanation to keep moving but not too much to get discouraged, and blends learning with gamification in engaging and appealing ways.
  2. Listen to this 8-minute video on tones from Yoyo Chinese. To practice pronunciation and tones, consider using the Pitch Perfect Pinyin site from the University of Texas at Austin.
  3. Download and use the free features of the Skritter app to begin to become familiar with Chinese characters.
  4. Watch a few episodes of Happy Chinese on YouTube.
  5. Listen to your choice of episodes from the You Can Learn Chinese podcast.
  6. Optional: Attend Blacksburg Chinese School‘s Mandarin Chinese Conversation Group via Zoom on Saturdays at 4:00 PM U.S. Eastern time. Please contact Ye Ding, Principal, Blacksburg Chinese School, for the Zoom link,
  7. Optional: Once you know what “Nǐ hǎo” is, and way before you feel ready, consider doing this anyway: Listen to their video introductions, make a selection, and book a session with one of the nearly 800 online teachers of Mandarin Chinese on italki.
  8. Optional: If the importance of pronunciation is clear to you, consider taking the stellar, 10-session, 6-hour pronunciation course from Mandarin Blueprint, available at no charge if completed during a 14-day trial.
  9. Optional: View the video in this description of Stephen Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition.

“I am neither an Athenian, nor a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”
– attributed to Socrates by Plutarch

Context and next steps

If you are an older adult and find your interest in learning Mandarin Chinese piqued by taking this course or by reading about it, it is possible that the next most helpful step to take to facilitate your own learning would be to consciously begin to derive your own “interlanguage,” an individualized, systematic way to organize second language information, make meaning from it, and produce speaking and other language “output.” Similarly, John Pasden, founder of AllSet Learning, recommends learning Mandarin Chinese in a “meta way.”

In contrast to learning languages as components – vocabulary, grammar points, pronunciation, etc. – having an inner vision of how you are creating an interrelated, patterned, structured network for learning a second language may optimize use of the brain’s schematic functions and increase the efficiency of learning.

“If you woke up in the morning and could speak Mandarin Chinese fluently, what would you do?”
John Pasden

Anne has done extensive literature reviews on the research on the neuroscience and psychology of second language learning in older adulthood. She has done extensive testing of many Mandarin Chinese learning programs and apps. Based on her knowledge and experience, the course that best matches this research is Mandarin Blueprint.

No-cost and low-cost ways to connect with others

Instructor bios

Anne Giles, M.A., M.S., L.P.C., is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Commonwealth of Virginia, U.S.A., and a beginning student of Mandarin Chinese. She holds master’s degrees in curriculum and instruction and mental health counseling, and a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate. She studies Mandarin Chinese using Mandarin Blueprint. She  currently takes online, real-time classes five days per week through italkiAllSet Learning, and a private instructor. She takes a real-time, online group class for adults offered by Blacksburg Chinese School.

Sofia Zhang-Midkiff, M.B.A., has served as a business consultant to IBM’s Communications’ Strategy & Change Services and as an adjunct professor in the Department of Management at Virginia Tech.  Her expertise and experience include customer relationship management, project management, marketing research, competitive analysis, and product marketing. Born in China and a Fulbright Scholar to Sweden, Sofia is fluent in English, Chinese and Swedish. She is a board member of the Blacksburg Chinese School.

Photo is of italki instructor Depeng.

Note: I am a beginning student of Mandarin Chinese and also a counselor, able to provide services only to residents of Virginia, U.S.A. This content is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical and professional advice.