Learning Mandarin offers many benefits for personal and professional growth, not least gaining a better understanding of one of the richest cultures in the world. Millions of people travel to China to see the shrines, walk The Great Wall of China and indulge in the wonderful food markets in cities such as Beijng.
Crickhowell is a Confucius Classroom and thanks to the generosity of Hanban, we are delighted to offer sixth form pupils the opportunity to learn Chinese from scratch and to prepare for the internationally recognised Chinese proficiency tests (HSK). We can offer a bespoke learning experience that fits with pupils’ academic programmes.
Chinese dialects, whether Mandarin or Cantonese, are the most widely spoken languages in the world, being spoken by 1,197,000,000 or 14% of the global population. Mandarin is spoken by 873,000 million people in China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, the Phillipines and Mongolia.
Chinese history and culture is one the richest and certainly the oldest in the world. China is renowned for producing beautiful novels, short stories, poetry and more recently excellence in film. Reading great Chinese biographies and watching short films about the history of China provides a greater understanding of the language.
China has the biggest population in the world with approximately 1.28 billion people. It is far easier to acquire a deeper understanding of the culture if you can speak their language.
Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook has been wowing audiences across the world with his new Mandarin skills. It’s part of his business strategy to move Facebook into China and become a truly global business. So, if you want to do business in China, learn Mandarin.
Learning Mandarin is actually easier than you think. You don’t have to worry about verbal conjugation and the use of tenses is simplified. There are over 80,000 characters but generally only 3,500 are used in conversation. In fact, it could be regarded as a more logical language.
Chinese symbols and characters require a steady hand. The written words are actually iconographic characters rather than letters. These symbols and characters are created using ‘strokes’ rather like painting.
We know we need to keep our brains well-oiled and studies have shown that Mandarin speakers use both sides of their brains!
If you can speak Mandarin, the world suddenly becomes that much larger. As you travel across Southeast Asia, you will have the confidence to communicate with local people in a language they understand, enriching your experience and making inroads socially.
Starting to learn Mandarin
To begin with, pupils are taught to write Mandarin using the Pinyin system, which converts Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet. It also allows students to focus on pronunciation, whilst enabling them to read and write, without needing to learn complex Chinese characters. Although Pinyin uses the Roman alphabet, the pronunciation of its letters is often not intuitive to English speakers, but is still significantly easier than learning to recognize traditional Chinese characters.
The HSK Chinese proficiency tests
The HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) test is China’s only official test of Mandarin language proficiency for non-native speakers. It is open to foreign students, overseas Chinese and members of ethnic minority groups in China and provides the global standard for Mandarin language proficiency from beginner to advanced level.
It also provides a concrete demonstration of a student’s ability to prospective employers, foreign institutions and other international organisations.
The test is administered by Hanban, a non-government organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the Chinese government and is available in Levels 1 to 6.
At Crickhowell High School, sixth form pupils have the opportunity to study the HSK at levels 1,2 and 3.
Outside China, the largest benefit of having an HSK qualification is that it gives an immediate indication of your level of Mandarin and proves you have made significant progression. It also looks good on applications for scholarships and university places.
An HSK qualification serves as excellent proof of a student’s existing Chinese level if you are applying to study in China. Some universities offer tiered entry into language studies, meaning a student may a place at a higher level.
The best place to show off an HSK qualification is in China. Excellent exam results can lead to offers of scholarships. When applying for scholarships in Chinese institutions, the HSK qualification is a pre-requisite. So if a student wants to study in a Chinese university, the HSK examination is very important.
The HSK qualification will always be an asset on any CV when applying for jobs outside China. The importance of HSK for Chinese language learners ranges from desirable to necessary. If the end goal is to attend a Chinese university, students must take the higher-level HSK examinations and achieve a good score. For overseas universities and your job search in China and elsewhere, whilst an HSK qualification is rarely required, it’s an impressive addition to experience and qualifications. The HSK exams are a great way to push yourself on to the next level of Chinese; something you will be thankful for when working, studying or doing business with China.