This is Alice. Should she learn to say "ni hao" or "nei hou ma"?
I almost skipped the Alice Fong Yu tour because it's a Cantonese-based program—and Mandarin is the official language in China. Mandarin is actually the most widely spoken language in the world when you consider all the various dialects, and it's what the Chinese business world uses. Cantonese is supposedly more complex and difficult to learn than Mandarin. But I'm glad I took the tour because right now AFY is at the top of my list.
So why would I ever want to send my daughter to a Cantonese school? Well, 100 million people speak Cantonese—it's the second most used language in China. It's also the common Chinese language in San Francisco and the de facto language in Hong Kong (where Alice has actually visited and says she would like to live some day). And those who speak Cantonese can easily pick up Mandarin. AFY introduces Mandarin in junior high—i.e., children graduate in the eight grade speaking both Mandarin and Cantonese.
The differences between Cantonese and Mandarin are much more complex than what I've outlined above and apparently some even dispute whether or not they're languages or dialects. If you want to learn more, I recommend checking out Wikipedia.
Here's a rundown of the Chinese immersion programs in SF:
Alice Fong Yu
Please offer up any information on Chinese immersion? Did I get all my facts straight? Did I leave out any schools?