Superlist no. 803

Beyond ni hao ma?
You too can learn to speak Mandarin.

By Momo Chang

IF YOU WANT to fulfill your fetish for all things Sino, or just want to appear cosmopolitan and cultured, Mandarin is the lingua franca. San Francisco still has a larger Cantonese-speaking population than a Mandarin-speaking one (they're two of the most common dialects in China), but there's been an increase in demand for those who can speak the more common tongue. Ever since it's been touted as the new must-learn world language of future commerce, parents are scrambling to send their kids to Chinese school, or to take classes themselves. Below is a list of places that offer Mandarin classes and private tutoring in San Francisco.

Foray into the world of Mandarin learning with one-on-one instruction at the California Chinese Culture Learning Studio. Instructor Pauline Kao usually teaches small groups of elementary- to high school-age youths, but she also tutors adults for $20 an hour. She will cater to your learning needs, whether purely conversational or reading, writing, and speaking. She teaches traditional and simplified forms. 5517 California. (415) 831-8188.

The Center for the Pacific Rim at the University of San Francisco offers four semesters of Mandarin for undergraduates and three semesters at the graduate level. If you're not a full-time student, you can still enroll to take just one class. Undergraduate classes are offered by day, and graduate classes are in the evenings; both focus on reading, writing, and speaking. Fees are $900 a unit (subject to change), and courses are usually four units. Limited summer sessions are also offered on an independent-study basis. 2130 Fulton. (415) 422-6357, www.pacificrim.usfca.edu.

Aside from hosting an array of historical and art exhibits, the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco offers adult Mandarin classes. They meet on Saturdays and range from beginning to intermediate levels, focusing on conversational Mandarin with some character learning. Sessions are 10 weeks, but you can join anytime for a prorated fee of $13.20 a class if you enroll after the first four weeks. Class sizes range from 8 to 25 students, and concurrent adult and children's classes are scheduled, so you can drop off the kids while you yak away. 750 Kearny, third fl. (415) 986-1822, www.c-c-c.org.

City College of San Francisco has a Chinese department with more than 1,000 students and 45 classes. It offers the largest array, from Beginning Conversational Mandarin to an online Chinese Composition course. It even offers several Mandarin courses for native speakers of other Chinese dialects, such as Fukinese. The cost is $26 a unit, with most courses requiring three to five units. Enroll online, or call for concurrent enrollment in the middle of the semester or to take a placement test. Chinese courses are also offered in the summer. 50 Phelan. (415) 239-3223, www.ccsf.edu.

The Fong Ming Chinese Language Center, in the Sunset District, offers advanced private lessons for $20 an hour. The instructor, Yi Ming Fang, only speaks Mandarin and Cantonese, so it should be quite an immersion experience. Call to set up a time for Saturday or Sunday lessons, though this may be difficult if you don't already have some basic language skills. 2300 43rd Ave. (415) 665-8325.

The Chinese Program at San Francisco State University began in 1959. Today it offers about 12 classes in the fall and spring semesters, from beginning Mandarin to advanced literature-in-translation courses. Most classes are during the day; however, an advanced evening seminar is offered. Courses are $210 a unit, and Chinese classes range from three to five units. Contact the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures for more information. 1600 Holloway. (415) 338-7748, www.sfsu.edu/~sfsuchin.