Life / Continuing Education

Kick up your business cred by learning Mandarin

Role-playing enhances learning a new language


Banking, business and law professionals are among those taking advantage of George Brown College’s Mandarin language certificate program, says the instructor of the continuing education offering.

“We get a range of students,” says Bianye Li. “Anyone interested in Mandarin can take the program. We also get students who are just crazy about the language or have a significant other who is Chinese and want to learn.”

Courses are offered at five levels, with students placed in the appropriate level following a placement interview. To obtain a certificate, students must complete all five levels or, if they are placed higher, at least Levels 3 to 5 of the program.

“We teach conversational Mandarin,” says Li. “Students learn through role playing and being asked questions and we also teach them about Chinese culture because it often relates to the language.”

John Gallagher completed the Mandarin language certificate in 2013. As an investment advisor, Gallagher’s business takes him to China about three times a year. He says he joined the program after he took private lessons and wanted to transition to a group learning environment.

“The certificate covers a lot of practical topics,” he says. “It’s ideal for someone who wants to go to China as you learn to talk about topics such as transportation, the weather, medical and food. Also, as we advanced we would talk about the issues in China and its geography.

“Mr. Li would also interject information that wasn’t necessarily in the workbooks, so that was a unique aspect.” 

While the prospect of learning a language that places emphasis on tone can be intimidating, says Gallagher, he says George Brown’s structure allows room for interaction with classmates and the instructor. As a result, classes offer a fun and open atmosphere.

“Saying the wrong tone can give a different meaning to the word and sometimes if you use the wrong tone you can change a compliment into insult, which I have done,” he says, laughing. “But we use our alphabet, which helps, and the instructor uses the building blocks of lessons to present other lessons, so you have lots of opportunities to grasp concepts.”

Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world.

For more information about the Mandarin language certificate, visit

Mandarin isn’t the only language you can learn through Continuing Education at George Brown. The college also offers language courses in:

  • American Sign Language
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Korean
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish

To learn more about all the language courses and programs offered through Continuing Education at George Brown College, visit

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