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?

ProphetOfDoom Sun 28-Oct-12 10:22:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Iceflower Sun 28-Oct-12 10:22:21

Here we go smile, one quick google later...

This course was open to G&T students initially, but apparently the uptake was so low it was open to everyone last year, and all who applied got in. I think there were 20 places shock.

According to the blurb, apparently only a dozen state maintained schools offer mandarin in their curriculum.

crazygracieuk Sun 28-Oct-12 10:24:42

I would have thought that it's because schools couldn't teach the curriculum in 3/4 years like they can with European languages where you at least have the same alphabet and no shortage of teachers who can teach it.

crazygracieuk Sun 28-Oct-12 10:27:02

The People who I know whom picked ip Mandarin or Cantonese lived in the Far East and picked it up there in less time than it would take to do a degree in the language in the UK.

ProphetOfDoom Sun 28-Oct-12 10:27:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ProphetOfDoom Sun 28-Oct-12 10:33:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Ronaldo Sun 28-Oct-12 10:35:32

I work in an independent school and we teach Mandarin. We have done for a long time (certainly in the five years I have been in the school) . I think a lot of independents might offer it because o fthe international flavour of such schools.

It is difficult to get Mandarin teachers but we managed two! We al;so start the language as an option (club) in prep. It has a good take up amongst the English first language speakers.

Sorry I cant name it. I dont want to be identified. Check around is all I can say.

happygardening Sun 28-Oct-12 11:53:19

Eton and Winchester offer it to GCSE although I doubt that would make you remotely proficient and I think Eton also offer it to A level although I could be talking crap!

timewastingonhere Sun 28-Oct-12 11:56:00

Knightsbridge School offer Mandarin alongside French; the children can choose French + mandarin or Spanish + 1 other -

There are weekend clubs that's offer languages you could go to rather than a big relocate -

Floralnomad Sun 28-Oct-12 11:58:08

They do mandarin at our local boys grammar ( Kent) , but they are supposed to be a language specialist school.

mummytime Sun 28-Oct-12 12:05:35

My DCs state Comp does Mandarin as an extra curricula activity, I think you can start in year 8 in twilight sessions.

eatyourveg Sun 28-Oct-12 12:58:46

there's a primary school in Kent doing mandarin and both our local girls' grammars do it too (also kent) See here for the primary school

teacherwith2kids Sun 28-Oct-12 13:54:20

Locally, the superselective grammar offers Mandarin at GCSE and the local comp [technically secondary modern, of course] offers it as a club and is moving towards offering it for GCSE.

AuntAda Sun 28-Oct-12 19:02:28

Fortismere in north London offers mandarin. So does Our Lady's Convent High in Hackney. I'm sure there are others. Look for schools that are language colleges.

meditrina Sun 28-Oct-12 19:07:36

Probably beyond your radius, but all pupils at Dulwich College take Mandarin in years 7 and 8, and can opt to continue it onwards to GCSE and A level.

AChickenCalledKorma Sun 28-Oct-12 20:58:15

Our local comp offers a Mandarin club, open to all year groups, and recommended as a good option for students on their gifted and talented programme. It's not available as a GCSE option, though. We are in Surrey and the school in question is one of the least "desirable" schools in our area (for reasons which escape me!)

VivaLeBeaver Sun 28-Oct-12 21:01:57

Dd's state secondary school does. It is a language specialist school. It offers French, German, Spanish, Russian and Chinese.

She's only in yr 7 and does French and about to take German as well. Not sure when they can pick up Chinese or Russian. Dd learnt Chinese in yr 6 at primary school and is keen to pick it up again.

eandh Sun 28-Oct-12 21:02:33

Not in your area but in Kent my daughter has just mied to junior school (on same site as infant school but you app,y to get into juniors) she and mandarin lesson at least once a week. A new independent non fee paying school has opened and one of their key points is the amount of mandarin they do from reception (plus the 7-7 opening hours with free childcare provided!) I know people who haved moved to get a place at the local school with fantastic reputation who have turned down their place to go to the 'free' school because of the childcare aspect (I would be slightly concerned as they hAve yet to actually build the school they are based in a local secondary academy at the moment!)

VivaLeBeaver Sun 28-Oct-12 21:03:29

I'm well outside your area though.

eandh Sun 28-Oct-12 21:04:12

Excuse typos! I see someone has linked the the school I mentioned!

VivaLeBeaver Sun 28-Oct-12 21:09:50

Have checked dd's schools website, they offer gcse and a-level Chinese. They have a very Chinese sounding teacher who is head of the Chinese dept.

cory Mon 29-Oct-12 08:41:30

One reason for learning Latin or French is that it gives you a platform from which you can easily access a range of European languages. I managed to learn a fair bit of both languages at school and can now make a stab at Italian/Portuguese/Catalan etc.

Chinese otoh takes a long time to learn to the level where you can actually use it. I very much doubt that a GCSE for most people will do that. And the pitfalls are enormous, what with the pitch accent and the risks of saying something offensive instead of something that will win your firm another contract.

I would still have been very happy for dc to have had a go at Mandarin- to show them how different languages can be and how our way of thinking is not the only one. But I would not have expected them to be able to use it in a business context without many many years of study.

meditrina Mon 29-Oct-12 08:47:24

Spoken Mandarin isn't complicated, but it's time-consuming to do the rote learning required to read and write. Basic conversation takes about the same time as any language.

Even a small command of a language will impress far more in a business contextthan expecting everyone else to speak English.

As an MFL teacher I have often had parents asking why we didn't offer Mandarin. I can see why parents think it would be a good idea, but...
1. There is currently no PGCE (teacher training course) in Mandarin, so teachers are almost always untrained
2. Mandarin is difficult and it takes much longer to gain a reasonable level of competence in it (i.e. beyond GCSE)
3. The vast majority of pupils are more likely to use thelanguages they have learnt at school for general holiday and travel situations rather
than in business, and China isn't so common as a holiday destination.

Don't get me wrong - I love learning languages and would be fascinated to learn Mandarin. I just think that for most people it would end up being a bit of a pointless GCSE.

badgerhead Mon 29-Oct-12 15:51:17

There is a prep school locally who offer it plus the local girls secondary school offer to one form per year, this is in West Sussex though.

breadandbutterfly Mon 29-Oct-12 19:49:04

Watford Grammar for Girls in Herts (state) offers it as a second language from year 8 (after French or German in year 7). Quite popular apparently. Also do trips to China in year 8.

iloveiphone5 Tue 30-Oct-12 13:14:29

Thanks all for taking the time and effort to respond! Some very good points made that I had not considered. I googled more and read that there were 500 schools offering Mandarin but no list so except for going through schools' websites, this is going to be along trial and error process! And so far, no luck in finding a school near my region, except for oundle which is $$$$ and super selective, I heard....

Tricccky Tue 30-Oct-12 22:58:47

Beware of choosing a school based on mandarin teaching. Several reasons:
- Mandarin seems to be the Chinese language of choice for teaching - it has the most speakers of any language, but don't imagine this makes it vital for doing business... Cantonese is also very widely spoken, particularly in Hong Kong and Southern China which have been major business hubs.
- From a cultural perspective, while the Chinese have historically not been all that great at learning English this is beginning to change to a MASSIVE degree. And Chinese people don't like losing 'face' in the way that they do when you speak to them in 'Chinese' (especially pigeon-versions of Chinese). They will always prefer to speak to you in English, not vice versa.
- Mandarin/Cantonese are incredibly difficult languages to learn proficiently for speakers of English.
- That's not to say that learning the language is a brilliant thing for your child to do. Of course it is and should be encouraged. However, the level to which a child will likely learn at school is unlikely to get them very far. I wouldn't choose a school on the basis of it. To be honest, in an international culture, Spanish may well serve them better. At least they'd be able to speak it on their holidays (far less likely if they learn Mandarin, unless you're regularly going to be nipping over to Beijing in half term).

Anyway, to answer your question, I know several primary schools near where I am (including state options which most middle class parents turn their noses up at) are introducing mandarin classes. My children therefore will almost certainly be learning it. I'd rather they were doing Spanish, but I can't make a choice based on this unfortunately.

Tricccky Tue 30-Oct-12 23:03:29

p.s. someone commented above about a smallamount being impressive in a business context. I think this is absolutely right. However, in my experience of travelling to China several times on business over the last few years I have always had amazing experiences and incredible gratitude presented towards me for the literally 10 or 12 (fumbled) words/phrases I have been able to use. Personally, I think 4 or 5 years of language teaching at school could be more fruitfully spent on a latinate language - possibly more interesting for the child and therefore more likely to stick at it. Anyway, your choice and I do understand and respect the motivation behind your question. It's also amazing to learn about the culture behind the language, which is fascinating.

muminlondon Tue 30-Oct-12 23:07:04

They offer it in our local comp as a second or third language. I think they have a native speaker. At least three other state comps in the area offer it as an extra-curricular activity.

But very interested in Tricccky's post. I question the value of learning only a smattering of a language if the motivation is for business rather than cultural/travel purposes. But as a second or third language, it would be fun.

wohmum Tue 30-Oct-12 23:28:29

My Ds does Mandarin at a state school in Northwood. It is offered as a core subject up to GCSE.
Enjoying it and doing well, but I understand there is a massive difference in results across the board between those kids with a Chinese heritage and those without (understandably!)

Hamishbear Wed 31-Oct-12 07:18:36

Asian Century

Things are going to radically change in our children's lifetimes. Mandarin is definitely worth considering. A great foundation which they may build upon later.

Tricccky Wed 31-Oct-12 23:48:47

I agree with Gillard's comments in the article linked to - but worth remembering that Australia has always had much closer
Links to Asia and i believe that Japanese - for example -
was very commonly taught there over recent decades. Regardless of the Asia Century point though English is still the established language of business and I simply don't believe this will change In our lifetimes. The major reason for this IMVHO is that already a great many university courses in China, India are taught today in English. In India, many high schools teach in English, in fact even at primary school it is quite
common. Given the proliferation of dialects in India (plus the
Colonial history I guess) this isn't altogether surprising. Some of my Indian colleagues when on business in the uk have ha to respond very di

Mulling it over some more I do think learning 'Chinese' as second or third foreign language is excellent but maintain that a language you have a likelihood of being able to show off with on your holidays would be more likely to hook a child in for the long term than one that you never get to use on location.

Tricccky Wed 31-Oct-12 23:51:53

Eek sorry my second para got truncated thanks to iPhone. Was jus tryin to say that I know Indians who have had the quality of their English complimented when they have travelled to the UK- and have half embarrassingly then had to point out that they were brought up speaking English.

Long winded way of saying that I actually think there is a high likelihood of the Chinese and Indians actually strengthening the global importance of English.

givemeaclue Thu 01-Nov-12 10:27:20

Most international business in China I, conducted in English -is seen as the language of business. Think this is why basic mandarin is not as popular as people think it should be. Go addition many different dialects/languages are spoken in China and mandarin I, of limited use in many areas.

LIZS Thu 01-Nov-12 10:38:37

Whitgift in Croydon does. I think you may find that some schools ostensibly offering it may have a core group of native speakers and it may not be so readily available as a second language. Agree it isn't really the language of business though.

Hamishbear Thu 01-Nov-12 12:20:41

English is likely to remain the language of business but Mandarin is likely to become the second in time - and possibly eventually take over from English. English on the internet is in decline, soon it not the widest language used.

The United States and the west is in terminal decline. This decline will adversely affect the position of English. The global use of a language doesn't exist in a vacuum it's linked to the power and reach of the nation state concerned. In the middle ages no one would have believed Latin would cease to be the language of education, in the eighteenth century it would be unthinkable that any language but French would be the norm for polite society.

In 2011 the Economist estimated that the Chinese economy would overtake the United States in 2018. More conservative estimates put the year at 2027.

In South Korea and Thailand all schools now offer Mandarin. It's being spoken and taught more widely in Hong Kong than ever before. It's the second most widely taught language in Japan after English. In 2010 India made a decision that it should be rolled out in all Indian secondary schools.

It's a differentiator. Those I know who conduct business who speak only a little Mandarin better build relationships with Chinese colleagues and are highly respected.

The balance of power is shifting East and I think a knowledge of Mandarin, even a basic one may help our children more than we know. The world will be a very different one in a relatively short period of time.

Munashe Thu 01-Nov-12 13:15:32

The Chinese are preferring their own local people who are proficient in both languages and have been educated at elite universities across the globe. Days of huge payouts to expats are gone unless you are highly skilled and really sought after. Even then you don't need to speak Mandarian.

Look at some elite school here (esp boarding schools) in England and see the rising number of the Chinese who speak fluent English and Mandarian and you'll see that China is grooming its own talent. Its an interesting language to learn but I wouldn't choose a school based on that. You can get a good tutor round to your house who can even do a better job that school if you really want your DC to learn Mandarian.

Hamishbear Thu 01-Nov-12 13:53:51

You make a good point about the Chinese learning English but I think we need to look more broadly. A businessman or woman with a knowledge of Mandarin and awareness and respect for Chinese culture is received far more favourably than one who is insular and arrogant.

I know some who think that if you are a smart parent you should be teaching your child Mandarin above anything else such is the way the world will change in their lifetimes. It may be the greatest gift you can give your child, they say. Many Chinese are learning English but comparatively few westerners are learning Mandarin. I think it's surprising how many don't seem to realise that China is going to economically dominate and soon - the dollar is going to eventually be replaced by the renminbi as the world's reserve currency (probably in less than 20 years). This will have far reaching consequences. A Chinese world order is imminent and it's surprising so many seem to be in denial.

Copthallresident Thu 01-Nov-12 22:43:02

keeping lid on annoyance at all the stereotypes If your DC is inspired to learn Mandarin then there are, as with everything, problems and opportunities.

Problems - It is true that the standard of Mandarin teaching in some schools leaves something to be desired, the demand has outstripped the supply of good teachers. I know some schools do not teach Mandarin because they cannot find teachers of sufficient calibre, so beware of schools adding it to the curriculum because it is trendy without ensuring they can deliver a good standard of teaching. Look at GCSE results, is a good overview of what is required at GCSE. For a motivated pupil with the right learning skills learning the 150 characters to get an A* should not be hugely demanding.

It is a different language to learn, but only especially difficult if you don't have a good ear / memory. It has four tones and written characters that you have little choice but to rote learn (but then I have neither and I have managed) will give your DC a taste to see whether they feel they have the ear and memory for the challenge to be enjoyable.

Opportunities - You don't just learn a language, the characters provide an insight into the culture in a way the European alphabet does not and that can give you an advantage not just in business but if your DC wants to go on to study that culture. Chinese Studies degrees (Oxbridge, SOAS, Nottingham especially) are extremely popular and have a very high employment rate.

Aiyah! to all the rubbish above about doing business in China. Firstly whilst there are many dialects, business with any sort of national / international context is unlikely to be done in any language but Mandarin. It is the official language of China, the characters are in any case in common and Cantonese speakers can understand Mandarin speakers, even the old grannies in local markets, though they may they may spit at your shadow as you walk away for speaking like a mainlander ! Secondly Mandarin and a knowledge of Chinese culture will make doing business in China and with Chinese people not just more effective but more fun too. The Chinese understand that being bilingual both lingusitically and culturally is important to effective business THAT is why they send their children west for their education (that and the fact that they recognise the weaknesses of the Chinese rote learning approach to education). The woeful ignorance of Chinese culture, let alone language, and the clinging to tired old stereotypes is what holds UKPLC back when doing business with China, even our PM has embarassingly manifested that. It has made us into a bit of a joke.

As to not having the incentive of using the language on family holidays, every High Street has restaurant that it can be used in! and it will make your DC into one of their most valued customers, and get you brilliant service and food!!! Amongst the twenty somethings I know most have travelled to China and many have worked there too. It is already somewhere that offers opportunity where Britain is offering them none.

Hamishbear Thu 01-Nov-12 23:01:14

Aiyah! Indeed smile - great points, Copthall.

I know a few 20 something's having a ball in Shanghai at the moment, working in schools.

Hamishbear Thu 01-Nov-12 23:02:10

Sorry I mean somethings - excuse random apostrophe.

ZZZenAgain Fri 02-Nov-12 10:54:36

can I ask all you knowledgable people how important you think other Asian languages such as Japanese and Korean may become in this "Asian century" spoken of on the thread? Do you think that Mandarin will be the new lingua franca generally in Asia (or maybe it is already, I don't know)?

Maybe our govt. has to look at changing primary language instruction, probably it won't work out for our dc but for our grandchildren. Latin was the mark of educated people for a long time and has value in that it opens the door to knowledge and mastery of about our own and any other European language's structure. It also provides you with a vehicle for learning about classical antiquity from which an understanding of own traditions and culture largely stems. French was the language of diplomacy, used for travel and it was the done thing for aristocratic people to be able to converse in French, it has a nice sound, attractive culture, expanse and depth of literature. So I can understand why traditionally dc in the UK have to learn these languages but perhaps really now we can drop French as first foreign language. It doesn't make much sense in today's world IMO.

Hamishbear Fri 02-Nov-12 13:04:21

See my comments up thread on Chinese economy & language.

ZZZenAgain Fri 02-Nov-12 20:32:02

I've read the thread and your posts Hamish. It is an interesting thread , sorry OP don't want to hijack. Just wanted to ask what people think of the relative importance of other Asian languages in this "Asian century" or this a "Chinese century"?

I am not entirely convinced that this will be the case, I have read quite a bit to the contrary actually, so although I think Mandarin is a valuable language to learn and worth learning not just for economic reasons, I am not as convinced as some posters on the thread sound that the future belongs to this language. I would say if business is being conducted in English through-out Asia these days, it is not primarily as business of commerce that Mandarin knowledge is important. If it as people have said, more about being able to communicate in some basic way and show a knowledge of and interest in the the country you are dealing with (China). Surely in the exact same way, similar knowledge of other Asian languages is important too. Take Japan and Korea for instance, I would have thought knowing something of these languages and of the cultural background in Japan and Korea for instance would be as valuable as Mandarin. Of course the populations are smaller, there is that.

ZZZenAgain Fri 02-Nov-12 20:32:57

sorry business of commerce is meant to read language of commerce. No idea what happened there.

Hamishbear Sat 03-Nov-12 09:50:11

The reason that English is the lingua franca is largely because of the appeal and power of the US. English is not impregnable as the lingua franca & it's entirely possible that Mandarin will eclipse it in time - as impossible as many believe this to be.

It's interesting to note the rise of the status and importance of Mandarin in NE Asia - it's being promoted widely in Japan, Korea and Vietnam and of course many of these languages share elements in common with Mandarin anyway. Thais, Indonesians, Malaysians, Japanese and Koreans all want to speak Mandarin. China is promoting Confucius institutions globally to encourage Mandarin. Singapore has attached increasing status to Mandarin - many attend classes outside school even when it's the main language spoken at home. Within 50 years some commentators think that Mandarin will become the major second language in N.E. Asia (Japan, Korea, Vietnam). In 2006 there were approximately 1025 million speakers of Mandarin globally. There were approximately 328 million speakers of English. Mandarin has been around for 3 thousand years too.

As the US global position continues to weaken so the importance of Mandarin continues to widen and strengthen. Countries will increasingly seek to ally themselves with the powerhouse, China, rather than a weakening Europe/US with an ageing infrastructure. Increasingly Chinese culture will perhaps begin to be seen as superior, an exemplar of modernity (as the Jetsons rather than the Flintstones as I heard today smile ) their ancient civilisation, history etc important - such was the the case with Britain 1850-1914 and the USA from 1945 until now. Of course China has a long way to go and it won't always be plain sailing there's tremendous evidence to say that the die has been cast.

So to try to answer your question ZZZenAgain whilst it would be polite to know speak the language when doing business in Japan and Korea etc if you are going to invest the time and the resources it makes more sense to learn Mandarin. It's probably too late for us but anyone with a very young child now who tries to encourage its fluency in Mandarin could be providing it with enormous advantages for all sorts of reasons. Depending on where you live not always so easy to do I realise. I hear it's all a trend, a gimmick, wasn't Japanese in fashion some time back et? But I'd argue to think in this way is to misunderstand the bigger picture. By 2015 some say the Renminbi will be the second most important trading currency. In 2006 China invested $1.3 billion in Europe in 2011 investments in Spanish companies business holdings, Hungarian chemical companies, and a large Norwegian silicon industry individually totaled that much.

Many commentators seem to think it's all but inevitable that Bejing will become the global capital of the world in time and Shanghai take over from New York as the main financial district. These changes may well begin to happen in our children's lifetimes and many don't seem to think them possible.

ZZZenAgain Sat 03-Nov-12 12:16:51

that's a very interesting post, thanks Hamish. I wish now I could remember where I read all the articles which stated that although China will become a focal point in world finance in our lifetime, that it is only likely to be for a short duration. I really cannot remember the arguments for this now since I suppose it wasn't something that concerned me much. Maybe I can find something if I have a google.

I remember various fads for languages in my lifetime, all of which were supposed to be important to learn because of the financial situation: Japanese, Spanish, Arabic and now Mandarin so maybe some scepticism is understandable.

From what you say though, it seems sensible to drop French as primary school subject and start preparing programmes, material and teachers to adequately teach Mandarin in the not too distant future. It will take a while to set it all up. I think we would need to recruit native speakers and train them in the UK which would take time and do it via immersion in bilingual schools if we were really serious about it. Out of that generation of school children, we might have enough people able to train to teach Mandarin themselves but they would need to be sent to China for a couple of years. It is all more expensive than just continuing with French. A lot more expensive I'd imagine. Perhaps French could be second foreign language at secondary for those dc since I think the cultural attachment to the French language is still very strong in the UK.

SoupDragon Sat 03-Nov-12 12:24:16

DSs school does - Private but South London/Surrey borders.

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" 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.

Copthallresident Sun 04-Nov-12 21:57:35

HamishBearThat's certainly true of my DDs. We had to move on from China because DH became too senior but my DDs would have gladly stayed in their International Schools which they loved, and their peers have done spectacularly in terms of universities. Both the top and middle tables of DD's Year 6 are now at Oxbridge/ Georgetown/ Yale /Medical School / UCL/ Warwick. All can't wait to get back to Asia.

I would also say that the acronym FILTH is an unkind way of referring to a perfectly effective HR strategy. We have plenty of friends who like us came reluctantly back to the UK because their careers advanced, but for some Asia is where they can best use their skills and abilities.

Hamishbear Sun 04-Nov-12 22:10:10

Interesting Copthall. Encouraging re: schools & final destination.

I know about the old stereotypes about those expats in Asia but increasingly it will become attractive I think. There's more competition for roles than ever previously & people are reluctant to leave. International schools have really raised their game & I think if things really get tough in UK & elsewhere in the West this popularity will increase.

racingheart Mon 05-Nov-12 11:26:55

Not read all replies so sorry if this has already been mentioned, but Hampton School in Middlesex offers it as a GCSE for boys who already excel in languages.

RGS Guildford offers it as an extra curricular subject - you pay for the lessons, I think, but boys can, privately, take it to GCSE via the school if they wish.

quoteunquote Tue 13-Nov-12 16:53:58

I know that there is a state school in Bath that offers chinese languages as an option.

I shall ask teacher friends where they recommend nearer to London, there are quite a few saturday schools around.

GRW Wed 14-Nov-12 08:08:20

Aylesbury High school for girls is a grammar school which offers Mandarin as an extra subject, and you can do it to GCSE level.

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