Mandarin Roundtable

Next Meeting is Wednesday, August 18, 2021 at 12pm

All meetings are on ZOOM. For details, email Viveca Kwan at

About Roundtable

The Mandarin Roundtable has had a longstanding presence in the Greater Portland area for over 10 years as a Chinese language conversational forum. It is enjoyed by many new and faithful attendees who meet and converse in Mandarin Chinese for an hour twice a month.  The typical format has been to gather around a large table over tea or bagged lunch and have free flowing give and take, but starting in March of 2020 that had to change due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. MRT quickly transitioned to videoconferencing via ZOOM. The new format was welcomed as an important way for friends new and old, near and far, to keep in touch virtually, safely and regularly.  The MRT continues throughout these challenging times to carry on the goal of offering an informal opportunity for all interested to partake in fun conversations in Mandarin and get to know a community of like-minded people.  

Lately, participants have hailed from as far away as Farmington and Saco, Maine due to the convenience of the virtual format. The MRTs are open to everyone regardless of affiliation to CAFAM and The Language Exchange and all levels of Mandarin Chinese are welcomed. Conversational topics range from recent news events such as Comet NEOWISE (彗星 huìxīng or 扫把星 sàobǎxīng) to Chinese traditions, history, politics, poetry, culture, acupuncture, slang, idioms, and so on.

“My experiences for the last few months at the Round Table are very good, even though we conduct our discussion via Zoom. The discussion topics mostly cover current events and/or Chinese and American relations. The topics are quite interesting as well as using the Chinese language to converse. It is very fruitful to participate and I have also gained new friendships.” – Marjorie

MRT’s roots began when former CAFAM Board member and President of Fox Intercultural Consulting, Suzanne Fox, came up with the idea of hosting an hour of lively Mandarin conversation while “leaving your English at the door.”  It was held in various locations in downtown Portland on the first and third Wednesdays each month with a summer break. After awhile, there was a hiatus.  Then beginning in 2018, CAFAM member Viveca Kwan, who also works as a Mandarin teacher at The Language Exchange, proposed to the CAFAM Board a partnering arrangement between The Language Exchange and CAFAM to co-host and resume the meetings in the Old Port of Portland. Since September of 2018, MRT had been running continuously in The Language Exchange’s classroom spaces in the heart of the Old Port of Portland, Maine at 75 Market Street, Suite 305, until the Pandemic hit Maine this past spring.

Founded in 1992, The Language Exchange provides a broad range of language-related services to individuals and businesses alike. From language instruction — in approximately 10 languages – in group or private settings, to weekend or week-long immersion programs, to cultural events or translation services, The Language Exchange has supported and instilled the love of foreign language learning while gathering a community of open-minded people interested in traveling, understanding cultures, and one word at a time establishing lifelong relationships with speakers of other languages.

We are always glad to have new or less-experienced joiners, because we learn from them, too. As Confucius so wisely said 三人行必有我师 sān rén xíng bì yǒu wǒ shī – if three people are walking together, I can certainly learn from one of them.The Roundtable allows us to share things we know or learn about China, such as these two sayings that could relate to the pandemic: 病来如山倒病去如抽丝 bìng lái rú shān dǎo, bìng qú rú chōu sī –Illness arrives like an avalanche, but illness leaves as slowly as winding a reel of silk. 久病成良医 jiǔ bìng chéng liáng yī –Prolonged illness turns the patient into a good doctor.  I appreciate the 2nd one … that we all learn how to live better and more carefully.  And I hope the first one is partway wrong!” – Bob