Our Story

Recognizing China's growing importance in the world, brothers Robert and Bradford Fried combined their efforts to establish the Chinese Language Institute (CLI). Drawing on a combined 18 years of experience in China, they created an educational model that offers students a unique path to learning Chinese.

A Community Effort

CLI was founded in 2009 by brothers Robert and Bradford Fried. Drawing on a combined 18 years of experience in China, they created an educational model that provides students a unique path to learning Chinese and understanding the PRC through a high degree of customization and complete immersion within the language learning environment.

One of CLI’s most valued assets is its community of local and international educators. When applying to CLI, many students first meet Nancy Fried, a world traveler who knows what it’s like to prepare others for travel abroad. Nancy first helped facilitate study abroad experiences in 2001 and again in 2007 when her sons Bradford and Robert, respectively, embarked on life-changing journeys to southern China. When the brothers co-founded CLI, Nancy was a natural fit for Director of Enrollment.

You may also meet Jeff, the second of the three Fried brothers, who spends part of each year at CLI working on a range of visual media projects. Jeff has been bringing his decade of professional photography, filmography, and creative experience to CLI since the day his brothers brought the organization to life.

At the core of CLI’s success is our team of Chinese educators who share Chinese language and culture with students from around the world each and every day. We are dedicated to ensuring the best possible learning experience to every student who studies at CLI.

CLI is a true community effort, and the open and welcoming learning environment we’ve developed in Guilin is here to offer you the best possible path to Chinese fluency. We welcome you to study with CLI in Guilin!

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Constantly Developing

Since its inception, CLI has hosted hundreds of students from over 30 countries and several of the world’s top universities, including Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Columbia, and many more. CLI has been featured in The Washington Post, the China Daily, and educational journals across the country, and now occupies its own 5-story learning center in the beautiful southern city of Guilin. In 2012, Frommer’s travel guide recommended CLI as one of the top Chinese programs in China.

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Passion & Expertise

Each of CLI’s directors is deeply passionate and knowledgeable about China and the Chinese language. Bradford has lived and worked as an educator in China for over a decade. In addition to his position at CLI, he is Director of International Staff at Guangxi Normal University and holds a masters degree in teaching Chinese as a foreign language.

His brother Robert has lived, worked and studied in China since 2007, speaks Mandarin fluently and is currently completing a joint MBA/MA degree with a focus in China Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. In 2009, while studying advanced Mandarin at Tsinghua University in Beijing, the idea for CLI was born in order to introduce much needed innovations to the intensive Chinese language learning space. He and Bradford have since spent nearly a decade developing CLI into a leading educational organization in China.

Thorstan, CLI’s Managing Director, has been involved with CLI since its inception in 2009. He holds an MA in East Asian Studies from Yale, where his coursework focused exclusively on China, and he completed a full year of advanced language study at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Thorstan has lived and worked in China for over five years.

Bradford, Robert and Thorstan are all fluent in Mandarin Chinese. Check out the CLI Team page for stories on each of our team members.

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Guilin was chosen as the home of CLI for a multitude of reasons – it’s warm; it’s small and simple to navigate, with a population of just under one million; local residents are friendly and engaging; local cuisine is excellent; and the list goes on.

Perhaps the most important reason Guilin was chosen as CLI’s home is the beauty and cultural richness of the city. In China, Guilin has been famous for its natural beauty for over a thousand years. Arriving in Guilin feels like journeying into a traditional Chinese ink painting. It’s impossible to accurately describe Guilin’s otherworldly mountain landscape with words – its scenery is one which must be seen.

Bradford first came to Guilin in 2001 and quickly fell in love with the city. Robert visited his brother three years later and the magic of the area left an equally profound impression on him. When the brothers decided to establish a Chinese language organization in China, the question of where they would build their language school had a clear and simple answer. Since that moment, they have dedicated themselves to building the best Chinese language school in China.

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