A New Beginning
The 2000's Began a New Era for Dalat, Now a Well Established in Penang, Malaysia.
As a newly independent school, Dalat was no longer run by the organization that had founded it in 1929, the Christian & Missionary Alliance. A multi-denominational school board formed to help lead the school, and more expatriate families in the business community were welcomed to Dalat.
In 2002 the word “International” was added to the school name to more accurately reflect its growing international student body of 233 students.
Dalat remained a school of about 250 students the next few years and then saw exponential growth in 2006 to over 300 with the arrival of Korean students looking for an American college-prep education and the new Malaysian law that allows local students to attend international schools. Five Malaysian students enrolled that year.
In the middle of the decade, Dalat students came together to help the community clean up and rebuild after the tsunami of 26 December 2004, which caused horrific damage around Southeast Asia. Dalat’s seawall had to be rebuilt after crumbling under the wave.
Beginning in 2008, new high school requirements reflected the changing times: students were required to take at least one online course, and the following year, students had to complete community service hours before graduation.
Throughout this decade, the number of boarding students at Dalat dropped substantially, with less than 20 percent of the student body in the boarding program by 2009. At the end of that same year, the student body was much larger at 459.
Loving a Language, Loving a People: Alumnus Brendan Frentz (2008)
To Brendan Frentz, the Mandarin language is like art — the beautiful character strokes, the glide and tone of the spoken words, the complexity of meaning. Despite the challenge of mastering this “art,” particularly for a non-native speaker, Brendan has found himself drawn to this language — and its speakers — in a passionate way.
“I know I will continue to learn Chinese as long as I am alive,” Brendan says, “because there are few things that bring me as much joy as discovering a new character or surprising the Chinese people I meet with my language.”
Brendan’s love for Mandarin, which took hold during his days at Dalat, has propelled him across the globe to study in a Chinese-immersion program in Chengdu, China. And it led him to compete against thousands of other expatriates living in China to become a finalist in a televised Chinese-language competition for foreigners.
Born and raised in Indonesia, Brendan came to Dalat in grade five and graduated in 2008. He was active in a variety of activities at Dalat, including multiple sports (he played on the first Dalat boys soccer team to win the local MSSPP tournament) and student leadership as senior class president.
Brendan’s first exposure to Chinese culture and language was in high school, when he was hooked by Mandarin classes taught by Eunice Teoh (pictured with Frentz), also known as “Lao Shi.” “[Lao Shi] brought Chinese to life,” Brendan says. “She made each and every class not only interactive but also a lot of fun. All this time a fire inside of me for China kept growing stronger and stronger.”
After leaving Dalat, Brendan eventually headed to Canada where he began working for the Marriott Hotel Company in Edmonton, Alberta, and then attended MacEwan University. During his first year there, he heard about the Chinese Government Scholarship, which sponsors international students to study in China. It was an easy decision to apply, and he was soon accepted.
The first year in the program required intensive Mandarin study, which Brendan describes as the “highlight year” of his life thus far. He then moved to Chengdu to study in a Chinese-immersion business program while continuing to work in the hotel industry.
In Chengdu, Brendan heard of a nationwide competition in Mandarin for foreigners — and he had no intention to participate. But his instructors wouldn’t stop encouraging him to try. When an audition took place in Chengdu, he decided to go for it.
Frentz passed the first round of CCTV4’s 2014 Mandarin Bridge Global Chinese Competition for Foreigners and was given a ticket to Beijing. He went on to five more televised rounds, successfully moving up to each new level of competition.
In the grand final, which was televised around the world, Frentz placed sixth. It was all an amazing learning experience, Frentz says. “My Mandarin climbed to a new level, and also I found new confidence in using my Chinese to address large crowds of people. I also got to meet foreigners from all over the world who are just as crazy as I am about learning Chinese, or maybe just as crazy as I am in general!”
This semi-final video clip can be watched here, and there are English subtitles:
(Frentz’s speech begins at 1:03.15)
The grand final can be watched here:
In 2015, following the successful completion of his Mandarin immersion business management degree, Frentz returned to Toronto, Canada, where he found employment with a Chinese company. He also serves in a Chinese church and gladly accepts Chinese speaking engagements.