Let's learn Chinese

Updated: 2012-12-09 14:51

By Mike Peters (China Daily)

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By the end of 2010 they had 42 students, and the numbers have doubled each year since, reaching about 200 today.

Let's learn Chinese

A lens on learning abroad 

Let's learn Chinese

Following in love's steps 

The loan was repaid the first year and the language school now thrives in a five-story building in scenic Guilin, with a strong base in the community.

Despite it's professional staff, CLI is still a family affair. A third Fried brother runs the company website, and mom Nancy Fried works as director of admissions from her home base in the US.

Besides its own immersion courses in Mandarin, the institute staff runs a semester-abroad program at Guangxi Normal University, where it has 13 classrooms, and helps Americans secure English-teaching positions from middle-school to university level.

That includes many Asian-American students who can speak perfect English and have a head start interacting with the culture, says Fried.

Many incoming Americans are part-time Mandarin students at CLI and part-time English teachers in local schools simultaneously.

The brothers negotiated a three-week study tour with Virginia Tech, Robbie's alma mater, that was a huge success and started word of mouth that the Frieds credit for CLI's growth.

Virginia Tech students can claim course credits for studies done at CLI.

The institute's programs last from two weeks to a year, with tuition costing from about $700 for two weeks to slightly more than $19,000 for one year, depending on the program and accommodation. The institute grossed more than $160,000 in its first year, Fried says.

Nicholas Gacos, a student in that inaugural study tour, told a Virginia-based newspaper that, "We crammed so much learning into those three weeks. The things we did, and saw, and ate, and the people with whom we interacted It was an unbelievable learning experience."

Understandably, the Frieds think US President Barack Obama's project to boost the numbers of Americans studying in China from about 14,000 to 100,000 in four years is a great idea.

"It's a wise investment," says Robbie Fried, who is now 26. "And the starting point is breaking misconceptions about China, ideally with high-school students.

Contact the writer at michaelpeters@chinadaily.com.cn.

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