Schools offering Chinese Mandarin

(80 Posts)
iloveiphone5 Sun 28-Oct-12 10:14:49

Would love to hear from anyone who knows of any schools (private or state, although that cld be rare) that offer Chinese Manadrin lessons as a core MFL subject or failing that, as extra curriculaum item? Preferably in the Herts, Cambs or Bucks regions or north London. With the economy in China / Asia booming ( and expected to continue to boom) and our own struggling economy in the EU, I am surprised that not more schools are offering Chinese. I really fail to see French or Latin or Greek being more important than Chinese for global business in the future. Why they are still on the curriculum i do not know. Controversial maybe - what do others think?

Hamishbear Sat 03-Nov-12 12:27:42

'When China Rules The World' by Martin Jacques is a fascinating read which is where I got some of the statistics and information posted above. I think at one point many thought Chinese growth/strengthening economy might be a flash in the pan but now it's pretty certain that the west is in terminal decline and power shifting East. Actually it's happening faster than many anticipated it seems. I'm frankly astonished that more aren't picking up on it & so many seem to be in denial. Of course no one can predict the future with total certainty but as I said above the die is pretty much cast it seems.

I'd be very interested to read the counter arguments you mention.

Lonecatwithkitten Sat 03-Nov-12 13:09:57

DD's school (3 to 18) has the girls starting mandarin in year 1 it is compulsory to the end of year 7, it can be chosen as one of two languages (from Mandarin, French, Spanish and Italian) for year 8 and 9. They can then study 3 languages at GCSE German is offered at this point.
DD is in year 4 she really struggles with Latin languages, but has a real flare for mandarin. I suspect it will be one of her choices she loves forming the characters and in our local Chinese was complimented on her accent.

Hamishbear Sat 03-Nov-12 13:19:54

Great news, Lonecatiwithkitten, good for her.

ZZZenAgain Sat 03-Nov-12 14:36:49

don't have much time today but if I find something, I'll put it up on a new thread in Education - "Should all dc learn Mandarin at school?" or something similar to that.

Hamishbear Sun 04-Nov-12 02:34:36

Whilst I think you can argue the case it's not worthwhile teaching children Mandarin - unlikely to get to a level where it would be useful, waste of resources, too expensive, lack of teachers etc - it's very hard to argue that China isn't going to grow in power & economic strength in our children's lifetimes. It's possible in their lifetimes it will eclipse the USA & dominate globally. Unless something unforseen happens it certainly will in their grandchildren's lives. Cultural familiarisation at the very least should be part of the curriculum IMO.

Some have moved from West to East solely so that their children become fluent in Mandarin. To them this will give them an advantage beyond anything else. Who can say whether they are right? I know some who are currently prioritising Mandarin ahead of some of the nuts & bolts of NC - they are confident their children will catch up later but never again will they have the chance to approach fluency in Mandarin.

Schools are opening globally now that claim every student will leave fluent in Mandarin as a second language. I think this will make students stand out in the future - it's a real differentiator & it's going to be very competitive in the future to say the least.

losingtrust Sun 04-Nov-12 10:13:14

Nearly all the state schools in my area offer it as an option.

losingtrust Sun 04-Nov-12 10:14:30

I read recently that Chinese employers are no longer taking on non-mandarin speakers.

Savonarola Sun 04-Nov-12 10:19:20

Can I remind you of the comedy sketch in which, to make military communications safe over open airwaves, they switched to O level French, and said in English accents "parce que person ne parle O level French"

I think the idea that schools turn out competent speakers of any language at GCSE is a tad optimistic. Those who can truly use the language either have it at home or have gone on to A level or degree level, and even that goes rusty after a few uses of lower use.

Hamishbear Sun 04-Nov-12 10:31:41

Absolutely Savonarola - hence people that really want children to learn Mandarin (and aim for fluency) having to move East etc, go the extra mile, be incredibly focussed. Not really practical or realistic for most. Having said that there is a global group of schools which have been established which claim children will be fluent in Mandarin by the time they leave - they are taught in Mandarin from Kindergarten up at least 50% of the time. The first has just opened in New York & one opens in London in 2015 I believe. Whether children will be able to read and write fluently I am not sure but see no reason to doubt if they start young enough and it's given a huge measure of priority.

Losingtrust given that the Chinese will be the largest employers/wield the most economic power in our children's lifetimes - and certainly their children's lifetimes - (barring extraordinary unforseen circumstances) now maybe a good time for children to begin to learn to speak the language. The West is in terminal decline.

NamingOfParts Sun 04-Nov-12 10:40:47

I really wouldnt choose a language on the basis of trying to second guess which language will be the language of business. There are so many ifs, buts and maybes to consider.

In my opinion it is important for children to learn any second language as early as possible. I remember reading somewhere that if you learn your first second language by the time you are around 6 then the language 'chip' in your brain gets left switched on. This means that it is then possible to absorb other languages more easily.

I would be looking for a school which has a very open and flexible approach to language study. A school which isnt rigid in saying that only 'top set' children are allowed to learn additional languages. Why should learning languages be the preserve of students who are good at maths?

Hamishbear Sun 04-Nov-12 10:53:13

It's not about Chinese being the language of business it's about China being the most powerful country in the world in every sense possibly within the next 50 years. That's what I think has motivated some to take Mandarin as seriously as they do. They perceive complete fluency will give their children an advantage and be a real differentiator. Their children will have (as they see it) great critical thinking skills, creativity, fluent Mandarin, English mother tongue and tremendous work ethic (if educated in Chinese schools - or schools that educate principally in Mandarin - with a traditional ethos and also learn at home in some capacity). English will remain the language of business for some time to come but as I said up thread it's not impregnable in the way many believe it to be. In the not too distant future it won't be the most widely used language on the internet for starters.

Agree re: learning languages early - there's a huge amount of research out there which shows the cognitive benefits too. Agree too that access to languages should be open to all. I'm hopeless at maths but pretty good at languages and I am sure there are lots of us out there. I think such distinctions are made as resources are limited so they go to those likely to give the best return on the investment.

Copthallresident Sun 04-Nov-12 11:38:25

I would totally agree that it is not just about business, that there is a need for cultural exchange as well, whatever happens to China in future (and I am not sure I subscribe entirely to Hamishbear'sbullish predictions, there are plenty of threats to China's stability. Jonathan Fenby is a good and very readable writer on these, he writes in The Guardian as well as being a published author). We have brought our DDs up as "third culture kids" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_culture_kid but even learning the 150 characters you need for an A* at GCSE will give our DCs a better insight into Chinese cultures than most adults in the UK (and quite a lot of the journalists who write about it, not to mention David Cameron's advisers angry)

Hamishbear Sun 04-Nov-12 11:49:37

Hi Copthall will check out Jonathan Fenby. There will undoubtedly be challenges for China, as there were for America when it was on the way up (some very serious problems). The East has increasingly the money and therefore increasingly the power. America is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world, things are not going back to the way they were IMO. The next 50 years will be very interesting. Agree with most of what you say and know about third culture kids smile.

losingtrust Sun 04-Nov-12 11:56:05

English as many people have said is the current business language but when you look at the economic forecasts for where future growth will come from and Chinese employers also now beginning to take this view any chance for your child to get for your child to learn mandarin should be grabbed wholeheartedly. As mentioned the state schools in my area are really pushing mandarin. All year 7 kids in my sons school were given an introduction and will be encouraged to take it next year as will I. Too late for kindergarten for my kids now!

losingtrust Sun 04-Nov-12 11:59:43

But any language really. My French is used daily in my job even though I only have an o'level and have never lived there but I did a language degree which makes it far easier to pick up any new language quicker.

NamingOfParts Sun 04-Nov-12 14:58:12

I think you need to be careful of thinking of GCSE level language, any language, as having learnt the language or having any degree of fluency. It is an academic exercise. At the end you are no more a French/German/Mandarin speaker than a physics GCSE makes you a physicist.

I have traveled extensively for work and for me the most useful thing was having studied Russian 20 years previously - I could read the station signs on the Moscow metro.

IMO the most useful thing course would be one which taught a few phrases and some essential culture for a number of countries. This could cover essential politenesses for half a dozen or more cultures. A few thoughts which spring to mind of the things which could be covered:

- how and where to get a cup of coffee
- essential greetings
- gift giving (what, when and to whom)

It's a course I would sign up for!

Copthallresident Sun 04-Nov-12 16:04:01

NamingOfParts The BBC do quite a good job. The online Mandarin course I linked to would do just that and it was developed with the Language Department at SOAS who most definitely do not suffer from the wider shortage of good Mandarin teachers.

NamingOfParts Sun 04-Nov-12 16:39:20

Copthall, that is the sort of thing I was thinking of but repeated for a number of countries.

For several year I was in a multinational department. We were all expats so used to being 'fish out of water'. What was interesting was discussing what we considered to be normal. The most interesting courses I went on were the ones which compared and contrasted different cultural norms. They were a real eye opener and helped me to have a greater appreciation of my colleagues.

BIWI Sun 04-Nov-12 16:45:49

The other advantage of learning Mandarin is that it helps to develop the right side of the brain - the more conceptual/creative side.

rabbitstew Sun 04-Nov-12 17:00:31

The people I know who learnt Chinese at university have had a hard time finding work based in the UK - their employers keep wanting to send them out to live in China, whilst their colleagues get more choice in the matter, so to capitalise on their degrees and skill and be employed for that reason, they have to live overseas whether they want to or not. And there they were, thinking it would be a great asset to make them and make them more employable in the UK, too...

conorsrockers Sun 04-Nov-12 17:31:57

I suggested Mandarin for after school club at my DS's prep school and was met with this face confused.
I discussed the fact that it will be much more useful to our children in 10-15 years than French. But they still looked confused and said they could offer Spanish. hmm

Copthallresident Sun 04-Nov-12 20:01:32

rabbitstew exactly what happened to DH and I, he being an expat brat third culture kid himself, it was the adventure of our lives, and life changing. A very good thing IMHO!!

rabbitstew Sun 04-Nov-12 20:07:06

Yes, I think it would be absolutely brilliant for a while, but most of my friends eventually wanted to come home again, at least for a while, particularly those in particularly polluted parts of mainland China! Their change of heart often coincided with having children.

Hamishbear Sun 04-Nov-12 21:32:29

Yes, Rabbitstew that's true re: pollution and children. I think in time knowledge of Mandarin will open up more global opportunities perhaps in other parts of Asia as well as the West. All in time rather than immediately now. Certainly I know those in Taiwan & Singapore that use Mandarin in their job & to communicate with China & moved on from Shanghai & Beijing after children. Sadly it could well be that staying in the UK is less attractive for our children for lots of reasons & they'll be so keener to put down roots in other countries & more adventurous than they might have been otherwise - especially those third culture kids smile.

NamingOfParts Sun 04-Nov-12 21:51:06

IMO the big thing we can give our children is to make them see that there are opportunities far beyond their own home town. Languages are part of this but for me the big thing is giving our DCs confidence. The confidence to try. The UK has been woeful in the rate at which it has participated in the Erasmus scheme. IMO some of the problem has been a lack of willingness to even give it a go. A fear of the unknown.

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