Ethnography: Children Learn to Read, Write, and Speak Mandarin Chinese and English


Using ethnographic procedures, Intel researchers identified several important (and widely know in some circles) points about the place of education and children in China families. As part of this user-centered research, they visited homes of families that were representative of the identified market segment of interest to Intel. This research highlighted several items — especially in families with a child ages 6-12:

1. The child is the family celebrity. Given the Chinese 4-2-1 family structure (4 grandparents, 2 parents, 1 child) under the one-child policy, most of a family’s attention is directed on the child.

2. Education of the child is the highest priority. Families make great sacrifices to ensure a good education. Also, what matters most is good grades in school. Good grades, even at a very young age, translate into more opportunities later in life.

3. Learning to read, write and speak both Mandarin Chinese and English are both cornerstones of education.

Personal computers in the home were largely perceived as a distraction to education, with the child being lured into playing games or wasting time on the Internet.

I wonder how many children in the U.S. learn Mandarin in U.S. homes and schools? I wonder how many school policies, teachers and parents in the U.S. hold similar positions? How will children from these two countries fair in the global market of commerce, etc.? It seems prudent for Tablet PC users to demand software to address these questions, since an increasing number of U.S. products (including, I hear rumors, software and other engineering development) come from China.


  1. very interesting post. I was born and partially educated in China. English education is very important in Chinese education right now. Kids start to study English from elementary school…

  2. Do you, Wendy, or anyone else know what schools offer Mandarin in U.S. schools? It seems to me that students who learn Mandarin will have a future advantage in commerce, if not also in science, just as students who learn Latin today have an advantage in science and other professions.